Rotary sponsored walk

TO CROWDS enjoying Sunday morning promenade sunshine the couple walking hand-in-hand with two little girls were just another family doing the Rotary Community Charity Walk.

But for friends Viktoria and Alina, both 10, this was part of their biggest-ever adventure.

The girls come from an area of Belarus which is still badly affected by radioactivity from the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear power station disaster.

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Worse, their homeland is ill-equpped financially to deal with the catastrophe.

Alina, for example, lives with seven other family members in just two rooms only one of which is heated against the bitter cold of Belarus winters.

Thanks to the Chernobyl Children's Trust, Viktoria and Alina are spending a month in Bexhill in the care of Viv and Craig Bollen.

The couple are still in touch with the girls they hosted last year.

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This year, as last, they are pulling out the stops to make the girls' visit as happy and as interesting as possible.

The programme includes visits to Knockhatch, to Blackberry Farm and to the Sealife Centre at Brighton.

It is planned to include a conducted tour of Bexhill Fire Station.

But while the girl's flights have been paid for by the charity, Viv and Craig will be doing as they did last year and quietly equipping Alina and Viktoria with the sort of things little girls in the UK take for granted - t-shirts, trainers, pretty jeans.

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Participation in Sunday's Bexhill Rotary Club Community Charity Walk had a dual purpose.

At the Rotary wishing well on West Parade, turning-point in the two-mile seafront walk, club president Ray Dixon had a gift from the club.

He presented a cheque for 500 for the Chernobyl Children's Trust.

Children such as Alina and Viktoria were born long after the Chernobyl disaster. But its after-effects will haunt not only their's but succeeding generations. Even though the girls' home is well outside the immediate high-risk zone, radiation levels across great swatches of the country are dangerous high and are reflected by the incidence of cancer and other life-threatening conditions.

But on sunny Sunday morning it was all smiles as the girls enjoyed their walk and explored Bexhill.

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