Three Christian Reformed families opened their homes this summer to give children from Belarus a health respite from their contaminated hometowns.
Belarus received more than 70 percent of the radiation fallout from the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster. Many children born there suffer from depressed immune systems and are susceptible to respiratory and cardiac problems as well as thyroid cancer.
Vika, age 11, spent her third summer with Linda and Albert Harbers and their five children, members of Community CRC of Dixon’s Corners, Ontario. “Our children love Vika and the improvement in her health over three years is encouraging to see,” Linda said.
Peter and Winnie Vandermeulen, of New Life CRC in Abbotsford, British Columbia, welcomed Stepan, 10. “It was awesome,” Winnie said. “Stepan is sweet and gentle and clicked with our own children.” Stepan, the Vander-muelen twins Nicholas and Greg (both 7), and sister Kimberly, 5, spent their days biking and playing on the family farm. Providing a healthy routine and diet were a priority for Winnie, who said the experience was a very positive one.
Cindy and Ken Ruiter, members at Willoughby CRC in Langley, British Columbia, were first-time hosts. Katsia, 7, who is the same age as the Ruiters’ daughter Leah, spent five weeks swimming, visiting the dentist, and eating good food. “We finally convinced her that our milk is safe to drink,” said Cindy, who explains that in Belarus water, fruit, vegetables, and milk are often contaminated.
All three families welcomed the opportunity to reach out by including others in their family life. “I look around and know we have so much to share,” said Cindy. “This was one small way that our family could make a difference.”
The Canadian Relief Fund for Chernobyl Victims in Belarus has been bringing children to Canada since 1991. For more information, visit www.crfcb.org.