Yesterday saw a group of 12 Belarusian children enjoy a day out at a popular Scarborough attraction as part of a month long trip to the UK.
The trip is organised by Louise Hudson, co-ordinator of the Friends of Chernobyl’s Children Easingwold group, who has been bringing children over every year for the past decade.
The Friends of Chernobyl's Children charity was established 25 years ago and consists of a national charity and local groups who fund and organise yearly visits for Belarusian children from disadvantaged backgrounds and interpreters who travel with them.
In Scarborough the children visited Playdale Farm Park where they spent the day exploring the play areas and interacting with the animals.
Activities included handling guinea pigs and meeting baby goats that were born mere days before.
Jackie Wilson, owner of Playdale Farm said: "It has been really lovely watching them enjoy themselves, and if it helps them then it's absolutely worth it."
Louise explained that the programme runs in five year cycles and the same group of children come every year between the ages of 7 and 12 and stay with host families.
After the Chernobyl disaster, 70 per cent of the radioactive cloud fell on Belarus and much of the country is still badly contaminated.
The children who take part in the trip are all from disadvantaged areas and often have no option but to eat food grown in radioactive soil.
She said: "It’s a constant onslaught of low level radiation which when they’re young impacts their immune system. so it makes their immune system less effective and they say that coming out of that for a month every year between the ages of 7 and 12 really helps them recover.
“They’ve got fresh air, good food, they’re not anywhere near the radiation so their bodies can recover, and having that month, every year, really helps them get stronger and fight infections better into the future."
The Easingwold group relies on generosity from local attractions and host families who help them provide the children with memorable experiences.
They also visit the doctor and dentist each year.
Louise added that the recent Sky TV miniseries, Chernobyl, has had a positive impact on the group.
"It has definitely raised the profile, without a shadow of a doubt," she explained, "I’ve had so many more enquiries this year than I’ve had in any other year. I say bring it on."
She began working to bring the children over in part to let her own children see how lucky they are in comparison.
“You see the kids turn up with nothing, with dirty clothes, quite skinny, it makes it very visible.”
She added: "I’ve been to Belarus, I’ve seen where these kids live, it’s a fairly miserable existence for most of them.
"For me, the fact that the charity is so visible, you can really see where the money goes. It’s so tangible.
“If we can just help one or two of these kids see that there’s hope for them in life then that’s worth everything.”