Families who open their hearts to Belarussians

180912 Clair cotton of blackness with children l-r valeriya asmalouskaya 7, florence 6 and seth 2.
180912 Clair cotton of blackness with children l-r valeriya asmalouskaya 7, florence 6 and seth 2.

EACH year children from Belarus visit Scotland for a life changing experience and Linlithgow families are 
being asked to open their homes.

Friends of Chernobyl’s Children (FOCC) are setting up a new Linlithgow-based group to meet demand, and mother-of-two and organiser Clare Cotton hopes that host families will sign up for the first visit next April. Clare from Blackness has been involved in the Edinburgh West FOCC group, run 
entirely by volunteers, for the past five years.

She said: “The children come from Belarus to stay for a month with families, who don’t need to have children, but who can provide a loving home, and a bed for the child.”

Clare, husband Simon, niece Chelsea (19), daughter Florence (6) and son Seth (2), have been hosting for four years.

Clare added: “We have a wee girl with us just now, Valeriya (7), and it’s a pleasure to have her. Florence has experienced us hosting a child for one month every year since she was two, and you tend to have the same child for at least three years.”

The children aged 7-12 come from a highly contaminated area, and deprived families. While in Scotland, they receive medical and eye checks, and Clare is hoping the new ‘Forth Valley’ FOCC will be able to host around 12 children.

She said: “We go out once a year to visit the children, and there are so many to choose from, it can be logistically hard. But a new group means we will be able to help more. It makes a huge difference to them to come here and they are able to help their families when they go back.”

Some of the children 
arrive with little more than the clothes they stand in, but when they leave, they are given a suitcase filled with warm clothes, shoes, toiletries, vitamins and medicine to help their families. They also attend ‘school’, meeting in a local hall for lessons from 8.15am to 5.30pm, and enjoy fun activities like crafting, cake decorating and outings. The children travel with two interpreters as they don’t speak English, but the language barrier does not detract from the joy they get from the experience.

Those who would like to host children from April 17 to May 15 should contact Clare Cotton on 07771771659.