Supporting Chernobyl Children’s Lifeline Totnes and South Hams

Posted by thewinkingprawn on September 19, 2019



If you’ve been following us on Facebook, you may have seen that a very special group of people joined us for a Devon cream tea this summer. The Chernobyl Children’s Lifeline Totnes and South Hams brought this group of happy, smiling nine year olds to see us, as they do each year, for lunch and Winking Prawn goodies, and we wanted to take a moment to tell you a bit more about the charity’s wonderful work, in case you would like to get involved.

Set up by South Hams local, Sue Wyeth, the Chernobyl Children’s Lifeline Totnes and South Hams is the regional branch of the Chernobyl Children’s Lifeline organisation. The important thing that you need to know about this first and foremost, is that while there are branches of the charity across the UK, all donations to the Totnes and South Hams link stay with them.

The background

The Chernobyl nuclear accident in 1986 is widely considered to be the greatest environmental catastrophe in the history of humanity, and its repercussions are still being felt by people living in the area today.

The Chernobyl Children’s Lifeline was set up in 1992 to support families and children from Belarus, which is 25 miles from power station and received over 70% of the radioactive fallout. Here, the ground is still contaminated today and many of the families are growing their own food in that contaminated ground. There is still not a lot of working the area and living conditions continue to be run down.

The result is that people living in the area, including children, are getting a constant input of low level radiation, leading to immunity issues, childhood cancers and eye problems. It’s over 30 years since explosion, so more recently we have seen the childbearing years for those who were children at the time of the disaster. Many have found they are infertile and others are frightened to have children because of worries about potential health problems. In addition to that, the death rate in Belarus has consistently exceeded birth rate.

Starting Chernobyl Children’s Lifeline Totnes and South Hams

Sue set up the Totnes and South Hams branch of the charity 10 years ago, when one little girl in particular touched her heart. She met Alyona, who’s now 20, when she was a shy little girl, arriving in the UK in a pair of leather boots so enormous that they were impeding her ability to walk properly.

When Alyona went home, Sue worried about what she was going back to at home, so went to visit and on seeing the environment that families were still exposed to every day she felt compelled to try to help.

Sue says: "Once you’ve seen it and realise what’s going on, you just have to do something.”

What they do

Since 1992 the charity has brought over 55,000 children to the UK for respite breaks, all on the efforts of local branches including the Chernobyl Children’s Lifeline Totnes and South Hams, each responsible for their own planning and organisation.

Each year, Sue and her team invite 10 children from Belarus, all of whom are around nine years old, to spend a month with host families in the South Hams. That four-week period is long enough to let the radiation clear out their bodies thanks to the clean air, clean water and clean food.

While they are here, the children also go to see dentists and opticians, and are given a full health check up. However, Sue and her team also aim to make it a fun holiday for the kids as well, with lots of activities, often provided by local businesses and individuals. After all, having fun is what a trip to the South Hams is all about.

Supporting Chernobyl Children’s Lifeline Totnes and South Hams

In order to do their valuable work, Chernobyl Children’s Lifeline Totnes and South Hams fundraises throughout the year, depending on donations and fundraising to keep doing what they do. They also ask for clothing donations for the boys and girls, and volunteer hosts for the children each year. All funds raised by the local link remain with them rather than going to the main charity.

If you would like to find out more, contact Sue on 01548561783 or You can also follow them on Facebook or donate via JustGiving.