This week, we welcomed a group of 8 Belarusian children, to our Official NFFC Soccer Schools, we hold these every weekday throughout the school holidays at venues all across Nottinghamshire.

We were contacted by Helen Bushby, a committee member with the Newark and Sherwood branch of the Chernobyl Childrens Lifeline. She explained “We are part of a national charity set up to help children and their families affected by the Chernobyl disaster. We work with a school in Malotkovichi in South Belarus in the area badly affected by the radioactive rain a few days after the disaster and in the “red” area of contamination.”

The organisation brings over a group of children from Belarus every year to reap the health benefits of “good food and a healthy environment for a few weeks.” During their time in the country, the children enjoy an array of events and experiences that not only give them enjoyment but help to build and grow their self-confidence.

Helen explained that the six boys in the group and a couple of the girls love football and asked if we could aid in providing some sort of football training for the children, of course we were eager to help out and suggested they attend one of our Official NFFC Soccer Schools free of charge. The children along with a couple of their host families children came down to our Soccer School held at The Forest Sports Zone.

The children arrived eager to get started and expressing their love for football. All of our coaches were very welcoming and excited to get the children involved with some of our NFFC footballing fun!

Whilst the children were having an amazing time playing football, we sat down with Nick from the Chernobyl Children’s Lifeline to learn more about what they do.

Nick explained “Each branch works with a different community either in Belarus or Ukraine, and have done for 30 years in the aftermath of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster. All of the children come from a disadvantaged poor background, of course the nuclear fallout won’t disappear for thousands of years but realistically the reason we’re involved is because they could use some support.”

The charity has over 70 locations mainly in the UK and the Ukraine, “We are part of the Newark and Sherwood branch of the Chernobyl Children’s lifeline and we work with a village in the South of Belarus called Malotkovichi. Our children stay for three weeks however, some of the other branches around the UK might have the children for two weeks or four.”

Whilst the children are over here they get the opportunity to enjoy a wide range of activities. Nick told us “Obviously they are here playing football today, they have been sailing, they also went rock climbing a few days ago at the Nottingham University and they are going to Centre Parcs next week so they’ll get to experience an aqua park.”

It’s a great experience for the children as Nick told us they will get to see things they otherwise would never get the chance to, “The children are going camping in the Derbyshire dales next week which will be odd for them as they don’t have hills where they live. Tomorrow they are going to the seaside, they live 1,500km from the coast so they’ve never even seen the sea. There’s a little bit of education but it’s mainly a holiday as they come from families who will not be able to afford to offer them one.”

We asked Nick the key things he notices doing this kind of work, “The main thing we notice is because the charity is now 30-years old some of the children here will be the children of children who came many years ago. The children see a different way of life because, they have all come from a rural setting. Their areas will be 40 or 50 years behind, there are houses where they don’t even have plumbing.”

Nick told us of the main things the children get out of coming over here for a few weeks, “The children get taken out of their mould, for some of them this might be the first time they’ve been out of a rural setting in their country. We notice a sense of ambition when they go home after seeing a different life. We aren’t trying to change them from their rural setting but if there are children who want something different and have the ambition then we can help them get the education to do that.”

Nick ended with the main reason that this organisation does what they do, “We can’t give them education in three weeks but if we can change their mental approach that’s a great thing. They obviously come over here for some health reasons, they get some better food for a few weeks and they see a different style of life but we hope they not only go home with the memories but they go home with ambition and desire.”

Thank you to everyone at the Chernobyl Children’s Lifeline for enabling us to give these children this experience, we hope they enjoyed it as much as we did! For further information about the charity please visit their website www.ccllnewark.org.uk