Hucknall’s 15 year partnership with children of Chernobyl

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Continuing what her father started 15 years ago is the motivation behind one Hucknall woman’s fundraising challenge.

Hairdresser Kim Challand is the fundraising committee chairman of the Friends of Chernobyl’s Children charity.

The group was set up in 1999 by Rotarians in the town who first brought the plight of the children affected by the nuclear disaster of 1986 to the attention of the Hucknall people.

Kim’s father Geoff Ward was one of those Rotarians who founded the group and it is in his name that Kim continues the good work.

The aim of the group is to bring children from the Belarus area to Hucknall for one month a year for five years where they stay with a specially selected volunteer family.

“The ideal is that the child returns to the same family each year to build up a rapport,” explained Kim of Thoresby Dale. “The family provide them with a temporary home, give them care and make them feel welcome.

“But the trip isn’t about a holiday and giving them treats, although they do get this, but about giving them fresh air and healthy, nutritious food to build up their immune systems to help extend their life-span.”

During their month-long stays, as well as going to school at National Primary, the children have access to health care too.

“We have partnered up with local businesses Oasis Dental Care and Bonds Opticians who give free check ups and any follow up treatments as necessary,” added Kim who runs her own salon Kim Marie’s on Portland Road. “And we take them out for fun days to various places too.

“The whole charity is based on the goodwill of the people of Hucknall that has kept the funds flowing for 15 years.

“It is hard work though because as soon as we say goodbye to the group one year we have to start fundraising to enable their return the following year.”

Though Chernobyl happened in the early hours of April 26th 1986, its effects are still being felt. Workers were carrying out systems tests on one of the four reactors at the nuclear plant, in Ukraine, then part of the USSR.

An unexpected power surge led to an enormous explosion that ripped apart the core and radioactive materials were spread across Europe.The explosion itself killed around 30 people, but hundreds of thousands had to be evacuated because of high radiation levels.

It is estimated that more than eight million people still live in Chernobyl-contaminated areas of Belarus, Ukraine and Russia.

“So many people are still feeling the effects of what happened but we are trying to do our bit to help through the annual trips,” added Kim. “We are now preparing for our third set of youngsters to visit in June.”

The group begin visiting at around age seven until they are about 12 to maximise on the health benefits.

Originally it cost £9,650 to bring the group, including two teachers, to Hucknall but with increased travel costs the target is around £14,000 a year.

“Our link teachers in Belarus decide which group of children are coming based on the greatest need - all we know are their ages and names.”

As well as the neverending fundraising needed to keep the charity running, the group is reliant upon the generosity of host families too and stand-by hosts.

“We are very lucky that we have a group of wonderful committed hosts but we do need more volunteers to get involved in the fundraising,” added Kim.

The committee run a number of events throughout the year from large scale outdoor concerts, golf days and cabaret nights to coffee mornings and cream teas.

“It’s hard work and there are times when I have a whinge but I have wonderful support from family, friends, colleagues and customers who help to keep me going.

“And knowing I am helping to keep my dad’s dream alive and seeing the kids arrive, I know all the effort was worthwhile.”

If you would like to help the Friends of Chernobyl’s Children contact Kim on 0115 9680247 or at work on 0115 9639434.