Future projects for the local charity Chernobyl Children Rye were being planned last week when Sergiy Vygivskyy, director of the Psychosocial Rehabilitation Centre in Korosten, Ukraine, paid a flying visit to Rye to meet Janet Waddams, founder of the charity, together with Sarah Day, the Kent organiser for the Chernobyl Children’s Trust. With Vira Gys as interpreter and international project co-ordinator, they considered how the charity might continue to work in support of the Korosten Centre, established shortly after the Chernobyl nuclear disaster of 1986.
Vygivskyy had personal experience of the post-disaster clean-up as a train-driver removing contaminated debris from the nuclear plant site. Four zones were declared, ranging from a compulsory total exclusion zone, then a voluntary exclusion area of some 30km radius, and two further zones of lesser impact. In addition to the state-run medical treatment and research centre established for immediate victims, the need was realised for a rehabilitation centre to address social issues. The Korosten Centre now helps some 19,000 people each year, running educational programmes and training workshops to help combat the enduring mental and physical distress associated with living under the fear of radiation contamination.
The local charity was founded in 1995 and for many years welcomed children from the disaster zone to stay with families in and around the town. They came for recuperative breaks in an uncontaminated environment and to receive medical check-ups. This year, Sarah Day co-ordinated visits for 13 Chernobyl children around Ashford and they spent some time in Rye (see Chernobyl children at convent). This number is likely to fall owing to rising costs, so other support measures are proposed, not only for the Korosten Centre, but also for other children’s homes in Belarus, for example, a hospice in Pinsk and an orphanage in Brest – where, said Janet Waddams, “we urgently need warm children’s clothing”.
The primary purpose of Vygivskyy’s visit to the UK was to address an international conference at Birmingham, called by the Emergency Planning Society to examine and raise awareness of the continuing impact on local populations of nuclear disasters such as Chernobyl and, more recently, Fukushima in Japan. For further details about Chernobyl Children Rye and how you might contribute to its work, visit the website.
Photo: Kenneth Bird