THE Chernobyl nuclear power station disaster happened over 20 years ago, but the radiation levels found in adults and children in the Ukraine and Belarus are still way above safe levels.
The contamination in the soil that will still be there for hundreds of years from now has left the population struggling with appalling health problems - 1.5 million children are at high risk of contracting cancer or leukaemia and there has been an 800% increase in thyroid diseases.
As the long term effects of the world's worst nuclear accident on nearby Belarus (70% of the radioactive substances from Chernobyl fell over the population) became clear British charity - Chernobyl Children Lifeline - was set up to bring children from the country over to Britain for a month at a time. That short period of time away from home has a significant impact on reducing the level of radiation in their bodies and boosts their immune system by up to 80%.
Families across the country have been opening their homes to Belarus children for over ten years and now a local group is hoping to find enough host families in north Northumberland and Berwickshire to create a local link.
Tony Fowler of Berwickshire Association of Voluntary Service, and Susan Swan at Volunteer Centre Borders are hosting an information lunch on Thursday, November 2, at the Southfield Centre, Station Road, Duns, for anyone interested in becoming involved in the Chernobyl Lifeline Borders Link.
Practical issues they will help to sort out will be finding Russian translators, making sure that all host families are checked by Disclosure Scotland, co-ordinating fund raising and grant applications, arranging for good quality clothing for both the children and their families for them to take back with them and planning activities during the visits.
"There is a lot of fund raising to be done to bring the children over and support the families hosting," explained Tony.
"The Scottish co-ordinator will be coming to talk to the group and try and get some interest in setting up a support link in the area. I felt it was something as a voluntary organisation we could do and it's very different to anything we have got involved in before. It's a national organisation but the onus is on local people to support it."
In 12 years 37,000 children have travelled to the UK and as well as enjoying a range of activities and experiencing family life in this country they also received dental treatment, visited opticians and had medical help when required. Each child returns home with 30g of clothes and aid to distribute to their families.
They also support many establishments in Belarus and operate a family support project involving sponsors in the UK adopting a Belarusian family for four years with a guaranteed sum of ?15 per month ensuring that food is on the table and warm clothes provided.
l Anyone interested in finding out more about becoming part of a local link of the Chernobyl Children Lifeline charity is asked to contact either Tony (01361) 883137 or Susan (07725) 424 608 to confirm they will be attending the lunch on November 2, from midday to 2pm.
If you can't attend on that day but are interested in finding out more then they would also like to hear from you.