Almost 30 years after Chernobyl, Quebec still hosts annual children affected by the nuclear disaster, about giving some respite to their immune system. Recruiting families is however increasingly difficult, says the president of Living Health Children Chernobyl Joanne Rivest.
Families who have fostered children in the past have meanwhile developed strong ties with them: many of them have also kept in touch.
This year, 11 children staying in Quebec seven weeks during the summer. “It’s a good year,” notes Ms. Rivest. There were seven last year.
No child of Chernobyl is however expected in the Eastern Townships.
The Tribune has often told, summer after summer, the story of these young people from contaminated areas, who came to visit us.
According to the organization, Belarus, just 10 km north of Chernobyl in Ukraine, “received more than 70% of fallout because of the wind” and the weather situation.
The Chernobyl disaster occurred April 26, 1986.
What explains this difficulty recruiting families thirty years later? Probably different factors. “The tragedy is forgotten,” concedes Dr. Rivest. Several factors can influence the situation. Besides the passage of time, there is a question of availability of people, but also the financial aspect, because it is the families who bear the costs of having children, as the plane ticket, advance Ms. Rivest. The invoice may hover around 1,600 to $ 1,800.
The Sherbrooke Diane Pouliot will not see “his” twins this summer, she received five times since summer 2007. They are aged 17 today.
“They are preparing to take exams in order to be accepted at the university, says the mother of three adult sons. We are always in contact with the twins and their parents on Facebook. (…) They speak French well now. The five stays here helped them in learning French. ”
Same story at Mrs. Rivest: Katia, it hosts since 2007, will not come this summer because of exams she has to pass. Exceptionally, it came during the holiday season.
“We welcomed Katia in 2007 for the first time. It has hosted every summer. It will be the first summer we do not receive. Katia is like a member of our family, “says Ms. Rivest, who has three daughters in their twenties.
At the time of the interview with Ms. Rivest, one of his daughters was also in Belarus. Student in Germany, she took the opportunity to visit Katia. The latter will also visit another daughter of Ms. Rivest this summer.
“Now, she speaks French. We talk to him two or three weeks. Skype helps us keep in touch. “The technology also facilitates stays today. When children are bored, they can communicate with their parents.
“It helps for the first stays. “Often, when parents receive a child, they will then welcome for another stay.
The aim is to offer a “healthy living” to children who live in an area affected by the disaster. “What we noticed is that the first summer where Katia arrived, she was not very strong. The positive is for the immune system. She often missed school forward. ”
Ms. Rivest claims that when the holidays began, measures were carried out in children and they showed radioactivity decrease between 30 and 50% after the stay.
These measures, which were previously made in their country of origin, are no longer relevant. But the president wants they can again be taken in Quebec.
What happened to these children? “Many young people have turned to languages (as a profession). Some immigrated to Quebec. This is a positive experience for them (the holidays). This is something, when you’re eight and you have to adjust to a foreign culture, “says Ms. Rivest.
To mark the 30th anniversary of Chernobyl, Chernobyl Children Living Health is organizing a reunion event to be held on May 7 in Montreal. The deadline to purchase tickets is April 25.