Games provide respite for Chernobyl children

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Children affected by the aftermath of a nuclear disaster were treated to a taste of the Paralympics at a Sheffield sports centre.

The 11 youngsters from Belarus visited Ponds Forge International Sports Centre as part of a four-week holiday in Sheffield, away from the fallout of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster.

The children, aged nine to 12, played games of boccia – a ball sport related to bowls – with the Ponds Forge-based Smashers Club, and were also treated to free swimming at the venue’s leisure pool.

Belarus received about 
70 per cent of the deadly radioactive fallout from the explosion 27 years ago, which was caused by the meltdown of a reactor at the Chernobyl nuclear power station in nearby Ukraine.

The radiation in the environment has meant children in the contaminated areas have been born with or developed cancer.

The charity Chernobyl Children Life Line organises visits for youngsters every year in which they stay with host families in Sheffield, enjoying the fresh air and improving their health.

Richard Apps, Ponds Forge general manager, said: “We’re proud to be involved in this fantastic initiative and to be playing a key role in helping to improve the health of these youngsters.

“The children had a great time learning boccia and, importantly, it gives them a break from their highly polluted environment.

“When they go home, it can take up to two years for pollution levels in their bodies to return to what they were when they first arrived in Sheffield.”

As well as boccia, the children also took part in a host of other activities including camping, picnics and visits to a fire station.

The charity also arranged eye tests and dental check-ups for the children.

Robert Moore, Chernobyl Children Life Line’s Sheffield secretary, said: “Ponds Forge and Sheffield International Venues are always hugely supportive of this annual visit, and we’re really grateful for the opportunities they provide which make a huge difference to the lives of the youngsters.

“Learning to play a Paralympic sport like boccia was a fun and exciting new experience for them to take away from their trip.”