Every summer for 18 years the “Children of Chernobyl” have returned to our region like clockwork. Most importantly they get respite from the radiation left behind by the 1986 Chernobyl Nuclear disaster, fresh fruit and veggies, clean air and medical and dental care unavailable to them at home. Of course our host families love to see them come and are sad when they have to leave.
Things will be different this summer as the children are unable to come, for no other reason then our government has not made this issue a priority! Many other countries, including Germany, The United Kingdom, Spain and Italy, all felt that this children’s health issue was important enough to work on immediately and not only have signed agreements, but are hosting children this summer.
It will be difficult for our host families, it is like having your son or daughter call from university to let you know they won’t be home this summer as they have a summer job at school. For our host families these children are a part of their life and a real part of their families. Our interpreters in Belarus have contacted all of the children’s families and explained the situation, the parents for the most part understand the reasoning, but for the children it can be confusing. I know of one family that has two daughters, one is away in another country on respite and the other, who was supposed to come to Canada, is still at home in Belarus. This is very confusing for the children, especially the younger ones.
The real job now is for our government to get down to business and get this agreement signed. If other countries can do it then we can too! With a signed agreement we will have stability in our program going forward and an opportunity to get to work planning next years respite visit and start our new host family recruitment. We can’t give them back this summer, but maybe we can make up for it by bringing twice as many next year! Are you ready to host yet?
PS: We have had a lot of media attention over this issue. I am including below, links to the articles or the actual interviews if I have them. Thank you all for your continued support. Here is a picture of the children from last summer as they prepare to head home:
[qt:/home/wp-content/uploads/2009/06/CBCOttawaNewsCAC_Jun18_2009.mov 320 240]
This link is to CTV’s coverage of today, June 22/09 (click here).
I don’t know how long they will keep the links up, so if they stop working it means they have removed them.