AN INNOCENT group of children whose home lives are still blighted by the Chernobyl nuclear disaster are visiting Hucknall — and enjoying every minute of an action-packed programme.
Each year, Hucknall’s branch of the Friends Of Chernobyl’s Children (FOCC) organisation invites a bunch of youngsters to the town from Belarus.
The country bore the brunt of the nuclear fallout when the Chernobyl power plant in the Ukraine exploded in April 1986. It still has to cope with contaminated water and crops.
But every time the children visit Hucknall, their health receives such a boost that it can extend their lives by years.
The Hucknall FOCC arranges for youngsters to visit consecutively for five years when they are hosted by volunteer families. Once that period is up, a new group is chosen.
The current party of 16, which includes two teachers, is into its third year and so far, on the latest trip, it has enjoyed treats ranging from a visit to Twycross Zoo to weekly swimming sessions provided free of charge at Hucknall Leisure Centre.
A trip to Abel Wood in Ravenshead included climbing walls, a form of abseiling and a barbecue attended by more than 50 people.
Other events have included a bike-ride in Clumber Park, a craft day at Seymour Road Baptist Church in Hucknall, a visit to the Galleries Of Justice musuem in Nottingham and lunch at Nottingham Council House.
As part of the visit, the youngsters have also been given health checks. These have included free eye-tests at Thomas Bond optician’s on High Street, which has supported the initiative in Hucknall since it started 13 years ago, and dental check-ups at the Oasis surgery on Portland Road.
The children have also been to the John Lewis store in Nottingham where they were each given £35 worth of footwear and treated to lunch.
Kim Challand, a leading member of Hucknall FOCC, said: “Things have been fantastic. The loyalty and the good work of the host families is still fabulous and thanks to them, we are able to continue.”
Kim revealed that, each year, it costs £14,000 to bring over the group of children from Belarus and lay on activities.
This money is raised through generous donations and special events.
“We would like to thank the local businesses and people of Hucknall for their support,” added Kim. “Without them, it would be impossible to keep things running.”
The children are in Hucknall until next Friday (July 1).