Based in Horsted Keynes, the Friends of Chernobyl’s Children (Mid Sussex) (FOCC (Mid Sussex)) is a small charity which aims to support disadvantaged children and their families living in and around the city of Mogilev in Belarus, one of the areas worst affected by the Chernobyl nuclear disaster of 1986. The charity is volunteer-run, with every penny raised going straight to helping the children.
Set up in 2001, the charity is based in Horsted Keynes where it is able to use the village’s Martindale Centre as a meeting point. Each year the group brings between 12 and 16 children, accompanied by two interpreters, to Sussex for four weeks, usually mid-June to mid-July. Each child comes for four consecutive years, allowing them to bond with their host families and vastly improve their English.
As well as language skills, children enjoy a month of activities and healthy food, and are sent home with clothing, shoes, vitamins and medicines. The charity hopes to boost children’s immune systems and maintain their health, and it ensures each child receives dental treatment and eye checks during their visit. The children stay with host families who care for them in the evenings and at weekends.
The children are generally aged between seven and 12 and come from Mogilev and surrounding villages in Belarus. They are mostly from single-parent families, and often live in poor conditions, with whole families living in a single room, many without basic sanitation and running water.
Without host families the charity would simply not be able to operate, they provide love and support for the children, as well as healthy food, and a comfortable, safe bed. Although, hosting a child is a huge undertaking it is rewarding. There is always an interpreter on call, and the group co-ordinator can be reached at any time. Families undergo DBS checks and visits prior to hosting. They must also live in a reasonable distance of Horsted Keynes, and be able to transport the child to and from activities.
Many of their parents work long hours on low pay, so the children often have to spend time alone.
The cost of getting the children to England and running the activity programme is high, the charity is always looking for new ways to raise money. If you are part of a school or business who would like to help with fundraising, sponsoring a child’s visit or an activity, the charity would welcome this. The group also appreciates donations of quality children’s clothes which can be given to the visitors.
Help Chernobyl’s Children
By Jacob White