Can you help give Chernobyl children a welcome break?

A VOLUNTARY group providing holidays and respite care for children affected by the Chernobyl nuclear disaster is appealing for more host parents.

The Chernobyl plant meltdown occurred in 1986, with large amounts of radioactive material spread across Europe but most centring on Belarus and Ukraine.

Franz and Theresa Novotny

The fallout from the disaster continues to blight the areas through health fears and food contamination.

So, each year youngsters aged eight to 15 from the two eastern European countries are flown to the UK for a four-week break.

Recently, the Oldham Link of the Chernobyl Children’s Lifeline CCL) welcomed six youngsters for a summer holiday to remember.

With their departures, Theresa Novotny and son Franz – the driving forces behind CCL Oldham Link – are stepping up their bid to attract more volunteers and funding.

“The bottom line is these breaks give the children’s immune system a boost,” said Theresa whose organisation received the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service in 2016.

“But it costs £500 per child to bring them here which includes air fares, insurance and trips out.

“We could bring any number of children if we had enough hosts parents. But I try to keep it to a maximum of 12 to make sure they receive the right amount of personal attention.

“We have supporters throughout Oldham, including in Saddleworth and Shaw, but we do need more.

“Finding host parents is just as important, if not more so, than raising the money.

“Many are out working Monday to Friday, and so the children are under our care.

“Franz is very good with them; he does the artistic stuff and makes things exciting.

“But we would be grateful for more help,” added Theresa who has brought more than 400 youngsters from Belarus and Ukraine since beginning Oldham Link 25 years ago.

Nationally, an estimated 45,000 children have visited Britain since Chernobyl Children’s Lifeline was founded by Victor Mizzi OBE in 1992.

To find out more information and how to help go online: www.justgiving.com/chernobylchildren-lifeline or ring: 07595 834662.

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