Chernobyl Children Visit Sheffield

Posted on October 12, 2010 by


The Rose Café in Graves Park hosted a lively welcome party for the Chernobyl Children Life Line (CCLL) group, on Tuesday 20th July.

Twelve children from the Ukraine and Belarus, will stay for a month with families in Sheffield thanks to the Sheffield Link Group set up in 2006.

These children are from areas affected by the massive amount of radiation emitted from the explosion and fire at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Station on 26th April 1986.

Some of the enduring effects of this disaster are: the disappearance of many rural villages, the eating of contaminated food, an increase in thyroid cancer in children, severe poverty, alcoholism and its connected problems.

Mick Ring, the chair of the Sheffield group said: “4 weeks in Sheffield in our clean air can boost these children’s immune system for up to 2 years”.

He explained that the children have come over with a teacher (Oksana) also from Belarus. They are matched with host families with similar interests where possible. CRB checks and home safety assessments ensure the children will be in a safe environment.

Language is no barrier to developing relationships, Katia (age 9) from Belarus, beams with delight at June from Fulwood who says:

“..she speaks an odd word of English and is trying very hard, Its amazing you don’t need to speak language to get through.

“We manage with sign language. Its hectic but an amazing experience. “

On one of the tables, 2 boys (age 10), Kolya  and Edik, are playing “rock-paper-scissors”. Kolya is staying with Anne Ripley who, with her daughter Caitlin work as the host and support family coordinators. Kolya is the 4th boy to stay with Anne who enjoys the individual experience of each child.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Even so, it is important to have some help, and Caitlin emphasizes how  important it is to be able to have a rest sometimes, just like with any family.

Mat from Norton Lees arrived at the party with his own 3 boys. 

This is the 4th year his family have hosted and, very unusually, Alessia (14),  also stayed with them a couple of years ago when she was 11.

They have kept in touch with Alessia and her mum.  In the in between years they have had boys to stay.

 “Every single experience has been very positive “ says Mat. “ Initially the language is a bit of a barrier, but sign language works well. And we have a Russian to English dictionary…

 “Quite often the children don’t speak a lot in the first week, but as time goes on they speak more. It’s a confidence thing.

 “For the majority of the children it is the absolute experience of a life time. Some of them have never seen the sea or been in a car before, and when you see the sea for the first time at the age of 11 it’s a life changing experience.”

(During the month that they stay with a Sheffield family, one of the regular trips is to Cleethorpes. )

“4 years ago when Alessia came to Sheffield she arrived with a carrier bag that had in it a spare pair of pants and presents for our kids. She went back with the maximum weight carrying presents for her family.

“Alessia is lucky to have had a second trip to England, a lot of children may never leave Belarus again.

 The welcome party was officially launched into action by, “The Twins”, Nicola and Francine, from Dronfield, of Eurovision and X Factor fame. They put on an energetic performance for the families including hits by Amy Winehouse and James Blunt. They handed out signed photographs and posed outside for the press with the children and Councillor Alan Law JP, the mayor of Sheffield.

After everyone had eaten from the huge spread of delicious food there were circus skills in the rose garden and finally the party came to a close after the mayor had made a short speech.

The CCLL Sheffield Link don’t only bring children to Sheffield once a year: “Hopefully we’ll bring more children back at Christmas if we can” said Mick Ring. “Some people have asked if I can organise a trip over to Belarus in May.

“We’re sending some children in Belarus to a camp for a month in a non contaminated area. And we sponsor another family £25 a month, it’s a lot of money to them.”

“It’s a massive part of my life”.

No doubt it is a massive and unforgettable part of these children’s lives too.

 It costs £500 to bring a child over to Sheffield for 4 weeks.

If you are interested in being a host family or helping with fundraising or would like further information on this project please see

or contact Mick Ring on 0114 258 9283 or email on

by Virginia Lowes