Gin McGiffin, who lives in Oakhurst, has written articles for Swindon Link magazine for the last six years after she first started hosting children from Belarus. She later became the coordinator of Chernobyl Children in Need. Here she assesses the impact of its work
On April 26, 1986 one of the reactors in the Chernobyl Power Plant, located in the small Ukrainian town of Pripyatz, was destroyed by two powerful thermal explosions.
Radioactive material was carried by strong winds over neighbouring Belarus and Eastern Russia, Europe, including much of Britain, and particles were detected far away as Japan and the USA.
As a family we originally got involved in providing respite care to children from the contaminated area for a month at a time where they had get the chance to breathe clean air and eat uncontaminated food, returning them with a boosted immune system for a further two years.
Some 72 per cent of the radioactive substances from Chernobyl fell on Belarusian territory. Almost a quarter of the land and one fifth of its population of 10 million was affected by this disaster. Two thousand five hundred square kilometers of once cultivated land is now dominated by wild animals. Now a 193km barbed wire fence was erected to separate the most severely contaminated area from the outside world.
Almost 135,000 Belarusians became forced refugees whilst almost 2 million people, including half a million children, continue to reside in areas of low contamination.
In the wake of Chernobyl, thousands of families were grief-stricken as the disaster affected human health resulting in a sharp increase of congenital, pulmonary, gastro-enteric and other diseases. Specifically, the childhood mortality rate increased due to 38 pathologies. The number of children and teenagers with thyroid cancer increased a hundred-fold. In the two decades after Chernobyl, breast cancer reports have been on a constant rise. Parental love may overcome many barriers, but sometimes hopes and prayers are not enough to combat cancer.
The response of the international community to the largest human-made disaster in the history of mankind deserves special mention and the highest praise. People from many countries, gave of themselves generously, providing medicine, up-to-date medical equipment for hospitals, new homes for migrants, as well as care for affected children and the elderly.
Hundreds of thousands children from Belarus were welcomed by families abroad through organisations like Chernobyl Children In Need during their holidays. CCIN has a particularly close link with the area around Ozarichi village and has assisted with physical improvements to schools as well as arranging sponsorship of the poorest children to ensure that they receive a good meal every day and support at home.
Most recently we launched a sustainable cow and chicken project where we quite simply give families a helping hand to support themselves.
The past six years have had a huge impact on my family and others who have hosted children from Belarus as one of their own. We have dedicated ourselves to helping the children not only when they come to Swindon, but when volunteers go to Belarus to work on projects to improve the quality of people’s lives.
My heartfelt thanks go to everyone who has helped me and CCIN over the years to achieve what we have. I’m looking forward to continuing this work for many years to come.
If you would like further information on CCIN, sponsoring a child in Belarus, or purchasing a cow or chickens for a family, please contact me at email@example.com or call 07753662891.
Read Gin’s full article with more images at: