Belfast Telegraph

Chernobyl children hosted by families in Northern Ireland

By Stewart Robson

Seven children from Chernobyl whose lives have been affected by the catastrophic nuclear disaster of 1986 have arrived in the north west for a month-long stay with host families.

Some 145 children from orphanages and homes have travelled to Ireland on the Homes of Hope trip organised by Adi Roche's Chernobyl Children's charity.

The campaigner and activist has brought more than 25,000 children to Ireland from the affected area since 1991.

The Foyle and Inishowen branch of Chernobyl Children International aids families in bringing the children to the area's towns and cities including Londonderry and Buncrana in Co Donegal.

Emma Hunt has been involved in the Foyle branch of the charity for over 16 years and was inspired by her mother, who welcomed children into her home when Emma lived in England.

When the Derry native returned home, she said she immediately fell for the work her mother was doing.

"I was working as cabin crew for Ryanair and I came home on my days off to give my mum a hand," she said.

"You get to meet the kids and it takes over."

Emma's mother hosted the children for five years and she jokes that she still asks her mum to call round "for a bit of babysitting" when the children arrive.

Despite not hosting any children this year, Emma is still heavily involved in promoting the charity and the critical fundraising work that makes the trip possible for the youngsters.

Uylanna (17) has stayed with Emma since she was seven. She hasn't made this year's trip due to exams but hopes to make another trip to Derry at around Christmastime.

Emma added that there are struggles throughout the nine-month period which involves getting host families on board and signing paperwork before the children eventually arrive.

Chernobyl was the world's worst nuclear accident.

In the early hours of April 26, 1986, one of four reactors at the power station in modern-day Ukraine exploded.

Some 32 years later, contamination is still a problem, and disputes continue about how many will eventually die as a result of the accident.

Belfast Telegraph

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