From Belarus to Billericay and farewell to a friend

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It was fantastic this morning to welcome to Phoenix FM eight of the twelve children mostly from the Bragin area of Belarus currently enjoying a month-long recuperative holiday organised by the Billericay Link of Chernobyl Children’s Life Line. Ksyenia, Hannah, Kostya, Danila, Nastia, Vika, Andrei and Nikite have been enjoying a very full schedule, and 12 year-old Ksyenia – who’s English is first class – told us how life in England differs from that back home.

Alastair Manthorpe from the Link explained that holidays such as this one for children from the areas still affected by contamination from the 1986 explosions at the Ukranian nuclear power plant are believed to help significantly extend their life expectancy, and English teacher Nadia described why she gives up so much of her time each year to accompany such groups as interpreter and carer. Nadia also spoke movingly of her memories of Saturday, 26th April 1986 – the day that literally changed life across a vast area of western USSR.

Alastair and his wife Gaynor are hosts to Ksyenia, Hannah, Kostya and Danila, although Gaynor explained that hosts normally look after two children. They’re already keen to talk to anyone who thinks they might be able to act as a host family next year, when a group will be invited from Ukraine – clearly it’s a big commitment, but the rewards for the children and their UK hosts are tremendous and long-lasting. To contact the Link – whether you think you could get involved as a host or in any other way – phone Chairman David Gladstone on 01277 653462, or Host coordinator Kim Gavan on 01268 471335.

It was such a pleasure to meet the children – they were so well behaved and extremely patient, particularly as most of them wouldn’t have understood much of what was being said. If I had to pick a highlight of our time together it would be Ksyenia’s reading of our Events Guide – unlike me on so many occasions, she was virtually word perfect!

I also said a few words to wish the very best of luck to one of our best loved presenters at Phoenix – on and off air – Ed Wellman, ahead of his final Sunday Breakfast show. There are so many positive things that could be said about Ed, and suffice it to say that it’s been a privilege and a pleasure to know him, as a colleague and a friend. Ed, thanks for all your support and encouragement – and here’s to the future!

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