80 miles north of Kiev in the Northern Ukraine is a town that prior to 1986, no one had heard of. Then on 26 April 1986 the No. 4 reactor at the Chernobyl nuclear power station overheated, exploded, then went into meltdown.
The world's worst nuclear accident released 190 tons of highly radioactive waste material into the atmosphere exposing the people of Chernobyl to radioactivity 90 times greater than that from the explosion of the Hiroshima atomic bomb.
A huge area around the Chernobyl plant was devastated by the explosion and the ensuing radioactive contamination spread over the neighbouring countries. To this day there is nothing growing where once agriculture was the main occupation of the local people. Further afield cattle still graze on contaminated land, causing the population to be continuously exposed to radiation via the food chain.
As part of the former Soviet Union, Belarussia lies in the shadow of Chernobyl. The wind direction on the day of the disaster caused the majority of the fallout to be directed towards the Belarusian towns of Gomel and Mogilev. Of the radiation that was released, over 70% fell on the population of Belarus resulting in 800,000 children in Belarus and 380,000 in the Ukraine being at high risk of contracting cancer or leukaemia.
In 1994 one little Belarussian girl came to stay in Lancashire with Olwyn Keogh MBE. The impact of that first visit initiated Olwyn to set up the charity The Friends of Chernobyl's Children and the following year fifty children came from Belarus for a four week recuperative visit to East Lancashire. Since 1994 the charity has grown nationwide and today there are 28 groups across the country.
The charity targets children from orphanages or disadvantaged homes, aged between seven and thirteen, who are in great need and come from social situations that make it difficult for them to get the care they require at home.
During their stay in the UK the children live with host families and take part in a huge range of activities developed to meet both their recreational and medical needs.
On behalf of everybody in the Company the Glasdon Charitable Giving Committee has continued to support the Friends of Chernobyl's Children over a number of years, sponsoring children visiting the Fylde Coast each year.
Children from Chernobyl sometimes visit us, to pass on their thanks.