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Nine Chernobyl victims coming to district for boost

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Nine child victims of the fallout from the Chernobyl nuclear accident will be coming to Rainy River District for six weeks this summer as part of a national Canadian relief effort.

Susan Affleck of Rainy River, who works with the local movement of the Canadian Relief Fund for Chernobyl Victims in Belarus, got confirmation last week that the children would be coming in late June.

“There’ll be children billeted from Fort Frances down to Rainy River,” Affleck said, noting the host families already have been chosen.

The cost for bringing the young victims to Canada is around $1,000 a child. About half that money has been raised so far, Affleck said, adding the group will be turning its attention to fundraising efforts over the next five months.

Anyone interested in making a donation can contact her (852-1254) or Earl Cole (852-3173).

The small country of Belarus lies only 10 km north of the Chernobyl reactors and received about 70 percent of the radiation fallout from the explosion there in 1986.

April 26 marks the 12th anniversary of the accident, and Belarus still feels the effects of radiation.

“The area they’re from is still contaminated," Affleck said. ”Although these children are not ill per se, there’s effects from the radiation to their immune systems.

“We hope their visit gives their systems a boost,” she stressed.

In addition to the clean air and good nourishment, the children also could be getting some minor dental work done.

“Dental care and medical care over there is quite primitive by Canadian standards," Affleck said, noting the local relief group would be approaching area dentists to see if they could "donate” some work.

Since the children speak very little English, a translator and a chaperone will be coming to the area with them.

Affleck said the children’s native tongue is “Belarussian,” which gives them a good understanding of the Russian and Ukrainian language.

“We will be encouraging people who can speak those languages to help out at the beginning," she said. "It will make the children feel more comfortable initially.”

Despite the fact the children will be billeted over a large area, Affleck said host families will make it a point for them to meet once a week.

Some group events have been tentatively planned, such as a week at the United Church’s summer camp at Sunny Cove. One host family also has left a standing invitation for the children to meet on their property for horse rides and a barbecue.

But for the most part, planning the daily activities of the visiting children will be up to the host families.

“Basically, they’ll be introduced into the families and participate in what the families are doing," Affleck said. "I think we’ll have a really good experience.”

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