This month marks the 30th anniversary of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, which has left thousands of people with serious health complications.
Barbara Cox has been hosting poorly children for two decades and says it is hard work but very rewarding.
She said: “They turn up grey and some of them very sick but after just three days they are a normal colour again, so it is vital that this programme continues.”
The accident at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in 1986 has left large parts of Belarus contaminated. The children who live in these areas have to eat food containing radio-nuclides, and this is damaging their immune systems.
So to try and help these youngsters the Chernobyl Children’s Project, based in Glossop, arrange for families to host children in the summer when the radiation levels can be at their highest.
Barbara got involved with the project after friend hosted two little boys, she then held open garden sessions at her home on Nab End Farm to raise money for the charity before deciding to become a host.
She said: “It started with fundraising and in the bat of an eye I was the leader of the group, although I’m not any more.”
Barbara first hosted in 1996 to two 11-year-old boys with diabetes, one of whom she is still in regular contact with and he has just got married.
“It was very strange,” she said, “because of their diabetes they needed a meal late at night so when I was ready for bed I was still cooking in the kitchen.
“It is hard work and there is no point pretending it isn’t but it is so rewarding.”
Barbara says when children come over she and her husband David take the children, who normally travel in pairs and with and interpreter and doctor, to the Pavilion Gardens, Pooles Cavern and walking around the Peak District.
She explained: “The water, the soil and even the air is still contaminated from the disaster and this means children stay poorly. So when they are over here we make sure they have fun and are out in the fresh clean air as much as possible.” For the families who live over in Eastern Europe they are still dealing with the difficulties of being a nuclear fall out zone however Barbara feels not enough people know about what happened.
She said: “It has killed thousands of people and is still leading to health problems but over here it is becoming the forgotten disaster.
“There is a whole generation of children growing up not knowing what happened and that is sad.
“I gave a talk to a youth club where there was about 30 children and only some of the older ones had even heard of what had happened.”
For the people trying to battle with their illnesses it is very hard to cover the cost of the necessary medical treatment.
Barbara, who regularly visits the country, said: “A full two weeks wages goes on one month’s supply of diabetic drugs, so because it is so expensive people can’t afford the drugs.
“One of my first boys I hosted died three days before his 18th birthday from diabetes - if this was in England he would still be alive now.”
She added: “It has been thirty years since this happened but there is still so much to do to try and help future generations.”
It is too late to become a host family for thus year as visa have to be filled in months in advance but Barbara starts recruiting in September for the next year if anyone is interested.
For more information visit www.chernobyl-children.org.uk/
What happened at Chernobyl?
The disaster began during a systems test on 26 April 1986 when there was a sudden power surge in a reactor at the nuclear plant.
This dispersed large quantities of radioactive fuel and core materials into the atmosphere and ignited combustible material.
The burning increased the emission of radioactive particles and caused more fires.
This sent a plume of highly radioactive fallout into the atmosphere and over an extensive geographical area to the western Soviet Union and Europe.
Four hundred times more radioactive material was released from Chernobyl than by the atomic bombing of Hiroshima.
31 died within the first three months.
The radioactive materials have made there way into the ground and water supply and babies are still being with genetic difficulties.
Make a difference.
Barbara and her husband David also work with Chernobyl Aid UK and deliver much needed goods to the people who are still affected by the disaster. They currently need donations off:
Children’s clothes, including warm coats, boots and new underwear.
Basic toiletries such as soap, shampoo, combs, toothbrushes and toothpaste.
Travel bags for the children to come on recuperative holidays.
At Buxton Spring Fair on Monday, May 2 there will be stall on Spring Gardens - opposite Boots - and all proceeds will be going to the Chernobyl Children’s Project UK.