CHILDREN affected by the Chernobyl disaster have visited the region for a month long trip to boost their immune systems.

Eight children from Belarus are staying with host families living in the Teesdale area of County Durham, thanks to the Teesdale-Richmond link of the Chernobyl Children’s Life Line (CCLL) charity.

This is the first time children affected by Chernobyl have been able to stay in the area as last year’s trip was cancelled after organiser Susan Rigg’s farmhouse burnt down.

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Mrs Rigg, who has two young children of her own, said: “I didn’t want to cancel last year’s visit and I was very concerned that we had already sent invites to the children, but the charity was able to place them elsewhere in the country so they were still able to come over.

“It’s an opportunity of a lifetime for them and just a few weeks of fresh air and water can really boost their immune systems for up to three years.”

The children come from the same village in Belarus, and stay in pairs with volunteering families, each for two weeks.

Whilst in Teesdale, they partake in dozens of activities ranging from horse riding and roller skating to visiting the seaside and the Lake District.

The children, aged nine and ten, also receive free dental treatment and eye tests, provided by a local dentist and optician, as well as food and clothing.

Mrs Rigg added: “My car was full of clothes that were donated, they were all washed and ironed ready for the children and when they realised they were all for them their little faces lit up.

“They’ve really enjoyed the experience, they are always happy and smiling and it’s amazing to see their happy faces.

“I will continue to organise these visits for as long as I can, as long as I can keep fundraising.”

It costs about £500 for each child to come to the UK, including transport and visas, and Mrs Rigg fundraises all year round to raise enough money for the trip to go ahead.

Planning for the next visit will start as soon as the children travel home on Saturday, August 2.

The CCLL have brought more than 46,000 children to the UK for four week trips since they began in 1992.

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