Doctors in Belarus say that a four week holiday boosts the children’s immune systems for at least two years, helping them to resist, or recover from, serious illness. Every summer until 2019 Chernobyl Children’s Project (UK) has brought children to Britain for a recuperative holiday, and organised holidays in clean parts of Belarus for children whose disabilities make it difficult for them to travel.
Most of the children we bring to the UK are in remission from leukaemia or cancer. They are chosen by an organisation in Minsk called ‘Children in Trouble’ (CIT) which is run by parents of children with cancer. Holidays abroad are vital for their children, particularly in their teens, when many fall ill for a second or third time, and the death rate is very high.
We include groups of very young children who come for a holiday with their mothers. We also try to invite as many teenagers as possible because other charities tend to focus their attention purely on the younger ones and so there are fewer opportunities of a break for teens. Some of the children may come from some of the most contaminated parts of the country. There are still many children living in tiny rural villages, sometimes just a few miles from the Chernobyl plant. These children may not yet be ill, but their future is bleak if they continue to live in such a radioactive environment. A happy, healthy holiday in the summer may give them a better chance. And, in addition to the obvious health benefits, a holiday in the UK provides a huge psychological boost and the children (and mums) often return home with new friends they have made for life.
We last hosted children in 2019. before the outbreak of Covid and then the war in Ukraine. We hope that it may be possible to invite children here for holidays again in the future.