A group of children suffering the after-effects of the Chernobyl disaster have returned home to Belarus after four weeks on the island, with support from the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company.

The children have spent a month with local host families, away from the contaminated environment of their own country, to detoxify their immune systems in a safe and friendly environment. During their stay the youngsters were given lots of nourishing food, any necessary health checks and plenty of love and care.

The charity also organised an action-packed timetable for the children with a combination of recreational and educational activities such as swimming, tennis, horse-riding, gymnastics and Geocaching in Archallagan, as well as visits to the island’s beaches and Manx National Heritage sites.

This year there were also some new activities for them to experience including animal feeding at Knockaloe Beg Farm, teddy bear making at Bear & Bisque It and cake decorating at The Cupcakery.

The Steam Packet Company has supported the charity once again by assisting with the cost of travel for the children on their return to the UK.

In April 1986 an explosion at the Chernobyl nuclear power station caused 190 tons of highly radioactive waste material to be released into the atmosphere, exposing the inhabitants of the surrounding area to dangerously high levels of radioactivity.

Despite the fact that more than 30 years have passed, people living in Chernobyl are still suffering the after-effects and it is estimated that over the next 15-20 years more than 40,000 children will contract thyroid cancer.

Friends of Chernobyl’s Children (Isle of Man) has been providing family placements for underprivileged children from the Mogilev region of Belarus for almost two decades. The charity meets the full costs of these visits including travel expenses and health checks.

The charity also provides clothing, shoes & a year’s supply of vitamin tablets for each child that visits the island as part of the programme, which are vital for their immune system.

Norman Rivers, Founder of Friends of Chernobyl’s Children (Isle of Man), said: ‘There is no doubt that this trip can change lives – some former children are now teachers, engineers, builders, dentists or at college. Some are married and have begun to have families of their own.

‘I have spoken to many who have said that the opportunity to visit the Isle of Man not only benefitted their health, but gave them hope for a brighter future, which really sums up why we do what we do.

‘We are indebted to the generosity of the host families who offer their homes and give their time freely to these children for four weeks every year – we would be lost without them. I would also like to say a huge thank you to the Steam Packet Company for its support once again, it means a great deal to us.’

Chief Executive of Isle of Man Steam Packet Company Mark Woodward said: ‘We are delighted to support such a worthwhile cause and help reduce the cost of travel for the charity. It is pleasing to hear about all the fun activities the children have got up to during their time on the island and to see all their smiling faces in the photos – well done Friends of Chernobyl’s Children (Isle of Man) for organising another successful trip.’

Photographs: Groups of the children visiting Cronkbourne and the Wildlife Park.