A TRAINEE teacher has spoken of her experiences after returning from a two-week expedition to help children affected by a nuclear disaster.
Faye Mellenthin has just returned to Seaham after working at the Ptich Sanatorium, in Belarus, as part of her support for the Chernobyl Children’s Project.
Along with a team of six other young women, she ran activities with youngsters who have been affected by the after-effects of the explosion, which happened in one of the four nuclear reactors in the power station, in April 1986.
In addition to those who have been left disabled by the radiation, they also cared for those affected by other conditions as they worked on arts and craft events, games and activities to stimulate their senses.
The respite care also allowed those who looked after them a chance to take a break.
The 22-year-old said: “I do a lot of voluntary work. I’ve been to Camp America before and I was looking at what sort of other work I could do.
“This charity was definitely something I wanted to help, so I started doing a bit more research.
“I met the others for a weekend to get to know each other before we went and I think it was the others who helped make it what it was.
“We were with children with a range of difficulties and ages. You could see what a difference it made because they were so happy and grateful for anything they got.
“It did make me feel a lot more grateful. Since I’ve come back, I’ve really appreciated what I have so much more, because you realise how much these people didn’t have.
“What we saw was devastating, but you couldn’t let that get to you.”
Faye, who has come back to the region after studying a degree in English and history at Leeds Metropolitan University and is due to begin her teaching qualification at Durham University, took over a portable printer with ink and paper so they could print out photographs for the children.
She also delivered supplies including nappies, toothbrushes and hand sanitisers to boost the sparse resources the centre has.
She hit her target of £400 to cover her costs and then raised an additional £800 thanks to the support of donors, cash raised from a sponsored walk and entertainment night.
Businesses who backed her included The Mallard pub, Dempsey’s bar, the Meat Mart, Long Locks salon, Aphrodite clothing store and Amber’s School of Motoring.
The cycling club at St Bede’s RC Comprehensive, in Peterlee, where she was a pupil and recently returned to work as a support assistant, also donated £150.
Faye, who has previously worked at Leaf, Bark and Berries, in North Terrace, Seaham, said she was “overwhelmed” with the generosity shown by her friends and family and is considering heading back to Belrus to do another placement with the organisation in future years.
The institutions run by the organisation provide care for disabled children and adults, many of who have been orphaned.
The charity also provides respite care holidays to Britain and sets up projects to improve the lives of children with disabilities or to support their families and those who have cancer or diabetes.
Another of its responsibilities is to set up training schemes to help children move on from institutions and into the care of foster families and to manage exchange visits for health, social care and education professionals.
More information about its work can be found at www.chernobyl-children.org.uk