‘A Holiday in Essex’ – Chernobyl Children Visit Brentwood School

There was nothing sane about Chernobyl. What happened there, what happened after, even the good we did, all of it… Madness.” One of many poignant quotes taken from HBO’s critically acclaimed mini-series ‘Chernobyl.’ A heart breaking look into the lies, deceit and destruction of the fateful nuclear disaster of April 1986.

Despite the overwhelming generational damage, organisations such as the ‘Chernobyl Children’s Lifeline’ have been a glimmer of hope in supporting children affected by the aftermath of the disaster since 1992, and last week Brentwood School was proud to be part of this life enhancing mission. 

Within each area link, the CCLL’s aim is to provide 12 children (6 boys and 6 girls) with an exciting overseas travel programme full of fun filled activities, educational experiences and moments that will provide them with lifelong memories. This experience also supplies each child with a year’s supply of vitamins, and it is said that the trip itself can add two years to a Chernobyl child’s life expectancy. Something that money simply cannot buy.

As twelve wide-eyed children arrived by bus, and passed through the School’s Bayman Gate - easily distinguishable by their vibrant red caps – it was already clear excitement was building. 

Head of Brentwood School Charities, Miss Claudia Martin, and Russian speaking Fourth Year student Yegor Vyshnevskyy met with organisers Gaynor and Alistair Manthrope, and of course, Volodymyr, Anastasiia, David, Dmytro, Liliia, Karyna, Yehor, Sofia, Vitalii, Vladyslav, Mariia, Yana and their leader Svitlana Sakhanda. 

The morning sessions were taken up by creative ventures that the youngsters adored. First up was Art, where they attempted to recreate Big Ben using multi-coloured card, and followed swiftly by Design Technology, heating and clamping their way to building quirky plastic keyrings. All new and exciting activities that certainly built up an appetite. 

Luckily, lunch was next on the menu! Plates were filled with a variety of ‘tasty’ dishes, but the real highlight seemed to be the desserts. With jelly, trifle and crumble on offer, it was clear to see that their smiling faces were not just out of courtesy. 

A walk around the grounds and a visit to the Library followed lunch, with books and magazines donated to the group to both support the children’s learning and as a souvenir of their trip.  

Afternoon sessions began with Drama. Here the children’s imaginations were put to the test; both individually and as a team, with a selection of games that looked to recreate various animals and household items. The enjoyment built with each passing round, the climactic moment being a round of sleeping lions in which the losing participants each took it in turns to try and make the ‘sleeping lions’ laugh. 

The atmosphere was vibrant and full of high spirits as the group headed to their final session, Fencing. Despite Ukrainian fencers being renowned all over the world, this was the first time the youngsters had ever attempted it. The session began with games such as ‘Simon Says’ to help teach them basic footwork and moves such as lunging and retreating. 

Then came the exciting part! Masks, jackets and junior foils were distributed, and instructions given to help them engage safely while fencing. Despite their understandable initial hesitancy, it was fantastic to see the visitors lose their inhibitions so quickly. By the end of the session, they were all naturals and their disappointment at concluding was both heart-warming and encouraging for all involved.

As they said their thanks, boarded the coach and frantically waved goodbye, there was an overwhelming sense of gratitude from all at having met this wonderful group of children. We may never see them again, but will always be thankful to them for the rewarding experience, and look forward to welcoming the South Essex Link’s next group in a year’s time. 

If you would like to find out more information regarding the Chernobyl Children’s Lifeline or if you would be interested in hosting a child during their stay, please visit: http://www.ccll.org.uk/southessex/