As parents we often worry about our children. My heart’s in my mouth when my son walks along that too-high wall much too quickly. I lose count of the times I shout, ‘CAREFUL!’ when I know it won’t make the slightest bit of difference. I cover him head to toe in factor 50 at the first sighting of summer sun. Never, though, do I have to worry that the air he breathes, the food he eats and the water he drinks might be slowly poisoning his little body. But for the parents of the kids I met last week, this must be a constant worry, living in the harsh aftermath of the horrific Chernobyl Disaster.
Amongst all this despair, however, comes a glimmer of hope, brought by the Chernobyl Children’s Lifeline. The Ayrshire link of the charity bring innocent victims living in the Ukraine and Belarus to Scotland every year for four whole weeks of fresh air, fun and laughter. Four weeks that, it’s believed, can add up to two years onto their lives by recharging their immune systems.
So, on the 23rd of July, myself, Linda and Justine represented The MaidSafe Foundation in hosting a day out for 14 children living with local families for the month. We decided on Kelburn Castle for their outing, packed the group a picnic and crossed our fingers for sunshine! It was my first experience with the charity but colleagues Linda and Lorraine had regaled me with fond memories of previous years’ trips.
This year, it seemed, was no different. As soon as I met the kids, I took to them. The language barrier wasn’t an issue and I was overwhelmed by their gratitude for even the simplest of things. I was glad I’d brought my 8 year old son along as I was sure he had much to learn from these well-mannered children.
To anyone else, it wasn’t apparent the harsh living conditions these kids are used to dealing with, but for us who knew, it was really rewarding seeing the joy on their faces as they thought of nothing else but having fun.
The Secret Forest was soon a blur of red sweaters as we descended upon it for a scavenger hunt. Teams of 3 or 4 competed against each other counting goblins and identifying otters until we were all more than ready for lunch. After the children had devoured their picnic, Michael, the Chairman of the Ayrshire Link, appeared with a cake and a birthday present. It was Alina’s 16th birthday and she was touched that the charity were marking this special occasion.
Throughout the day, the kids posed for various group photos, and by now must have been more than used to doing so. At first I was bemused at the great hilarity when Michael shouted what I assumed meant ‘Cheeeeese’ in Russian. He later informed us that it really translated to ‘Diarrhea’.
Later, before a visit to the indoor playbarn, we treated everyone to an ice cream. The highlight of this for most was the bird pooing directly onto an unlucky cone. Lastly a visit to the fort was in order where a large scale game of ‘tig’ ensued. By this point the children were getting tired and it was almost home-time. Back to base we went to dish out birthday cake and gather belongings. The helpers were presented with tokens of appreciation from the children and a loud chorus of ‘thank you very much!’ So we waved them off, 14 tired children heading back to their temporary homes… awaiting their next big adventure!
For more information on how you can help, please visit http://www.ccll.org.uk