Chernobyl Disaster

Belarus has sometimes been described as "a forgotten land".  

Lions in South East England have remembered the desperate plight of the people there and the devastation of the Chernobyl disaster, from which they have suffered since 1986, and from which they will continue to suffer for many years to come. 

When the Chernobyl disaster happened massive doses of radiation affected vast areas of Belarus. A huge cloud of radioactive particles went up from the reactor and drifted north across Belarus towards Moscow. It was a bright, sunny May public holiday, and suddenly it began to rain death! It will take anything up to 100 years for radiation levels to get back to normal in some areas, and in the meantime, the people of Gomel grow their food on contaminated land, and catch their fish from contaminated rivers. 

The parents may escape severe health problems, but their children suffer all sorts of related ailments, and have a life expectancy a mere fraction of that of healthy children. 

The Lions of SE England first became involved in 1999, through our twin Lions District in Germany. Rolf, a medical doctor, has for over ten years organised and run an annual camp in Frankenberg, Germany, for up to 50 Chernobyl Children from Gomel. 

On one of his visits to Gomel, Rolf was shown a home for handicapped children where help was sorely needed. At that time, the only toilets they had were two holes in the ground in an outhouse 50 yards from the main house. Imagine that, in the depths of a Belarus winter. 

We drew up proposals for a joint project, and our two Districts raised enough money not only to put in good, modern toilet facilities on two floors of the main house, but also to replace completely the worn out, dysfunctional central heating system. 

By September 2000 the toilets had been completed, and work had started on the heating system. It is expected that all the work will be finished shortly. Lion Howard Lee who visited Gomel said "we found the people of Gomel generally very happy, friendly and hospitable. The fact that they have so little, but they gave us so much, made their hospitality all the more touching." 

The vast majority of people in Gomel live in small one or two bedroom high-rise apartments. The main problem is that the rent charged for an apartment is so high, compared with the average wage, that you find two or three generations of the same family having to share one apartment to make ends meet. 

The children are given two meals a day at school, but in the long summer holidays, they have to be fed at home, which often places a great strain on the household budget. Therefore, some help in the early summer would ease those problems considerably.  

Every year a very large consignment of clothes, toiletries, toys, writing materials, old computers, plus numerous other items, are sourced and financed and by Lions Clubs in the South East. These are transported by road to Belarus, quite a hazardous venture and accompanied and distributed by Lions from our area.