2017 Group Blog
hFriday 7th July
The group arrived at Gatwick Airport, courtesy of Belavia at 1.40pm. The journey there was uneventful. Ray drove a minibus loaned to us by Castle Court School for the month and Terry had collected the U-Drive bus hired for the day. The group appeared having passed through security at 2.30pm. Natalia, their Leader and Interpreter led the way. Natalia was the Interpreter the previous year and it was great to see er and have her back with us.
Our procedure was as always, to give the youngsters a CCLL cap to put on and a wristband with contact details just in case anyone got lost in the hustle and bustle of the airport and, later, the motorway service station. After a loo stop and hand washing we led the group to the minibuses and gave them all fruit and cake to eat and a bottle of water with the instructions to drink a little now and have sips on the journey. We left at 3.30pm.
Terry, a retired jumbo jet pilot, showed us a route that he use to use when commuting home to Poole. It avoided the heavy and slow moving traffic on the M25 and M3 and eventually we joined the A27 South Coast route east of Chichester. We finally arrived at our house in Barn Road at exactly 7.00pm. The youngsters were up at 1.00am our time in the morning so although excited, they were also very tired.
Dima had been sick five times, twice on the car journey from Pinsk to Minsk, twice on the 'plane and once on our minibus although by then he was just retching. He was completely washed out at the end of the long day he had but was fine by Saturday morning and was never sick again, not on the minibus or our cars (he was staying at our house!)
The heat wave was still with us. We held the usual Welcome Party at Paul & Ali's house. Their basement extension looked like a branch of Primark and the main task was to kit them out with enough clothes for the 4 weeks. Some had only arrived with a carrier bag with their few belongings. We also gave them the rucksacks that were provided by a local company. That was all followed by a bring and share lunch which, as always, was a real feast.
Most of the children had never been to the seaside so once we had sorted out a few things we took our two boys to our beach hut near Shore Road. The look on the boys' faces as they both said "Wow" as we turn the corner to see the sea, beach and people there, was a sight to behold. Both boys really enjoyed the beach and the sea. Dima swam reasonably well for a ten year old and quickly became very competent. Roma, our other boy, had no fear of water but was a poor swimmer. However he was easily swimming a width before two weeks were up!
The children are thrown into the deep end on the first weekend! They are sent off with their host family after the party on Saturday lunchtime and are then on their own (but in pairs) until the first "real" day on Monday. Most of our days start at 9.30am and the children start arriving any time from 8.30am if their hosts have to go to work or do the school run for their own children. Many of our hosts are either retired or their own children are grown up and self sufficient.
Monday morning is always a combination of health and safety information, writing postcards that are then immediately posted and start a diary of their visit. We usually find time to go to a playground and on this occasion took them to Whitecliff for a half an hour of play. Lunch was in our garden where the large Gala tent was still standing from the Garden Party we had held on the last Saturday in June.
Broadstone Junction Leisure Centre have always provided us with a swim and half an hour in Kid's Kingdom on the first afternoon. Because we will be taking the group on a number of water activities this session is an important first step in establishing who can't swim and starting to help them try. Most of the non-swimmers did learn to swim by the third swimming session the following week. Two swam a length of Poole Dolphin which is 50 meters, a great achievement.
For the 3rd year running Greg Hoare, a singing friend and manager of Wimborne Model Village invited us to take the group there for the morning. The weather forecast wasn't good but we managed! A reporter from the Stour and Avon free paper arrived and took some shots (we later had a great little article as a result). The children set about a paper based task, another friend, Tony Horritz arrived. He is a story teller and had prepared an old folk tale based on the Cerne Abbas giant. He had assured me that there was no reference to the naughty bits ... and there wasn't. Natalia interpreted and the youngsters listened and helped enthusiastically!
We took the group for a quick walk around Wimborne Square so that they could put the Model Village into context then we drove back to Barn Road for a picnic lunch.
South Coast Dental Practice have always given our groups the all important dental check. Graham and Philip are the dentists and the service they give to the children is quite literally priceless. They carry out any remedial treatment where they can and have any children back if more work is required. Usually all the children have a swim in the garden pool that they maintain and while in the pool Graham and Philip cook a BBQ for all of us and the host families who arrive to take the children home. Unfortunately, on this occasion we had torrential rain so all that had to be called off and Graham was left with a month's supply of thawed out beef burgers and sausages for him and his family. A great shame, but in nine years that I have been involved it was the first time that has happened.
Today was the first of many full day activities; a trip to Brownsea Island. Yellow Boats take us out to Brownsea from Poole Quay and we are as ever very grateful to Malcolm and his son, Dave for providing us with this lovely trip. National Trust also do not charge us as a Chernobyl group and it is both generous and helpful to us that we can provide such great days out at very little cost. Our itinerary, once on the island, is always the same. We start at the visitor centre where a volunteer gave a potted history of the island then walk the length of it to Pottery Pier. We stop on the way to get the youngsters to guess what the fire beaters are for. We stop again at a suitable bench to get the children doing team building activities, look for red squirrels and peacocks with their displays up, do a toilet/wash hands stop then have our picnic at Pottery Pier. Because there are lots of pieces of broken pottery, pebbles, seaweed etc there we get the youngsters into pairs to create mosaics. We reward the best ones - with key rings that they can clip to their rucksacks. It develops into a very competitive race to see who can get the most.
The eye checks are carried out by Scrivens in Broadstone. A media team arrived to produce a nifty article that got into the Daily Echo. That helps Scrivens and is also so helpful to us in spreading news of the work we do with Chernobyl children. Four children needed prescription glasses which Scrivens provides them with. We also purchase a second pair for each of the children in case a pair become worn or broken.
The afternoon was the second swim of the week at Poole Dolphin with thanks to Rob for organising it for us. Sometimes in the past it has been a hot, fine day when we have a swimming session booked and Poole Dolphin has always been understanding if I have to cancel because we need to make the most of the beach at Sandbanks! However not this time, as it was wet.
Tim is a very old friend. In fact my wife, Carolyn and Tim can go all the way back to the Youth Club at St John's Church when they were primary school age. As well as being a stalwart Wessex CCLL helper, Tim also takes the group for a cookery lesson at Ferndown Upper where he used to be Head of Technology until he retired. We really appreciate the use of the Food Technology rooms and the support given by Paul (Tim's successor) and the Head Teacher in allowing us to be there. Tim has it all down to a fine art. Tesco supply him with free dough so that the children can make bread rolls. After a short break they are instructed in how to make a bolognese sauce and cook pasta, then they set to work. It is all so civilised when we all sit down together at the table that runs the length of the room to eat their home made meals followed be fresh fruit and ice cream.
After that we drive to Sandbanks where we are provided with a free Crazy Golf session. Tony, who owns the franchise has done that for years for us and the kids always enjoy it. I took him up on a second go at Poole Park too! We had about 45 minutes to kill so we walked to the beach and went into the sea. All the children were up for it and we had plenty of adult help as well as the lifeguards who were there on duty.
Saturday and Sunday 15th & 16th
... were family days. With our two made good use of our beach hut. We also had the boys riding the bikes we keep in the garage. Broadstone Rec lies behind the house so they can ride safely away from traffic.
This was another full day, this time at Weymouth Sealife Centre. The charity arm of Merlin, the parent company is called "Merlin's Magic Wand". It just happens to be located in Poole but they have always honoured our application for entry to the Weymouth centre and it makes another great day out. Belarus is a land locked country so the youngsters take a lot of interest in sea creatures and for most of them it is the first and last opportunity for them to experience these unique species other than on TV. They always enjoy the splash pool too and we finally took them to the beach opposite to throw pebbles into the sea until Dave and Ali got back with the ice-creams from Tesco Express.
A visit to meet the Mayor of Poole is a regular feature every year. Councillor Lindsay Wilson is the current Mayor and the children enjoyed listening to some of the history of Poole's heritage. Gary told us about the function of the mace and there were plenty of photo opportunities. At the end of the session we were treated to sausage and chips from the local fish shop and the children were given goody bags to take away.
We took the group to Littledown Leisure Centre in the afternoon for a swim. The flumes weren't available but the youngsters enjoyed themselves. The more confident ones were able to practise doing standing dives at the deep end too.
The Headquarters and main production centre of Lush PLC is situated only a mile from Barn Road. Lush have a great community spirit and support our work in many ways. Giving the children a day's experience in their factory units provides them with an insight into production methods and the world of work. They were quickly making bath bomb, glitter soap and gift packs. The employees, many of whom are East Europeans, were very friendly to the youngsters and a few even spoke Russian which was a tremendous help. A wonderful buffet lunch was provided and most of it had disappeared by the time we were off to another one of their units for the afternoon.
Today was a proper seaside day! John B led the activities which started on the beach at Alum Chine. Beach games, a charge into the sea and kite flying kept them busy and Chez Fred provided the fish and chips for lunch (thanks Fred!). The group used the land train to get to Boscombe where they walked on the pier and climbed the rocks before returning to Alum Chine.
The morning was spent at the RNLI which, conveniently for us, has it's headquarters and training facility in Poole. Dave Wheddon gave a great presentation about his rowing of the Atlantic Ocean and the group were able to see the practice pool and experience the simulator. The morning finished with another cracking buffet lunch.
Tony has the franchise for Poole Park crazy golf too and the kids were able to let off steam in the playground nearby before another very competitive game.
Saturday/Sunday 22nd & 23rd
These were family days again and children were looked after by their hosts. We went to the market again then on to the beach hut. On Sunday Dima wanted to go fishing. I asked him whether he wanted to fish from the shore or from a boat. Both boys liked the idea of the boat so I booked that and we sailed from Poole Quay and had a great 3 hours about two miles off Bournemouth Pier on a fishing boat called Ocean Runner.
We are grateful to Jan and Gaye for this opportunity! We spent the day at Monkey World. It was an overcast day but fortunately it didn't rain. The monkeys and apes were very active and the children enjoyed watching them running around their enclosures. We follow an established route and finally arrive at a picnic area for a picnic lunch. After that there is a lot of apparatus that the youngsters enjoyed climbing on, swinging and running around. In fact, they did everything they had watched the monkeys doing.
After lunch and an extended play time we took them to see the marmosets. The enclosure differs from all the others in that the public walk around inside it. The close proximity of these active creatures provided endless amusement. The afternoon ended with another established activity - races on the climbing frames!
Adventure Wonderland is situated by the airport and is one more visitor attraction that we are so lucky to have on our doorstep. It was a warm sunny day and there is plenty to do there. We tend to go on the rides as a group in the morning and end up at the little animal enclosure. We ate lunch inside so that the youngsters could play in the elaborate indoor play area when they were ready. That meant the adults could have a hot drink and chat.
Andy Pedrick has led this day since he volunteered to do it during a game of golf with Terry at Parkstone Golf Club over 3 years ago. Andy owns "Jurassic Jaunts" and his knowledge and guiding make a really interesting day, except ... the weather was awful. We spent the morning at Barn Road doing some diary writing and concert practice then set off when the rain had stopped to go rock-pooling at Kimmeridge at low tide. It meant the children got a lot of fresh air but as it was still very wet we curtailed the searching of the rock pools and walked to the little harbour to look in the museum and see what was happening there.
Some of our helpers think this is the best day out of all! In truth we have many great days out and I wouldn't want to pick a favourite. We caught the 10.20 am from Norden for the 3 minute journey to Corfe Castle. At the gate to the Castle we met Miranda who has guided us most times over the past six years. She keeps the kids entertained with her in-depth knowledge of medieval toilet habits, fighting and general skulduggery!
Lunch is always at the blue fish and chip shop in Swanage. It is one of the few places where the manager won't discount the price of 30 sausage and chips although he does throw in the ketchup. This was no exception but a friend of one of the adults had given a cash donation for this very purpose so at least the cost was halved. The weather wasn't brilliant so we didn't have a swim at the beach. We walked out on the pier from which the view is spectacular.
Sam Mason is an associate of the BSO Resonate section of the orchestra. Thanks go to Lisa Tregale for organising the event. Sam led the youngsters, exploring sounds and rhythms. It was all very new to them and completely different from the music lessons they would have experienced in Belarus. You can watch the results by clicking the link "Leaving Party concert piece" at the top of this page.
The weather wasn't great again but we were able to take the children to Moors Valley for the afternoon to walk the Tree Top Trail which provided them with endless fun. We finished with a balancing competition and just got back to the minibus before it rained again.
This is the one weekend when there is an organised day for the children, their hosts, our helpers and any English young people who they bring. The day is hosted by North Haven Yacht Club and came about because Geoff and Julie, who were again hosting two boys, are members there. Barry Swaffield is the Commodore and he has gathered a team to provide the most wonderful experience for everyone for the 3rd year running. The youngsters are taken off for boat rides, those who want to did some sailing, they learned to canoe and had races in them and on three to a paddle board. Then there was crabbing with prizes for the most caught. Lunch was a BBQ on the decking with its superb view right down the harbour to Arne. The day ends with the greasy pole challenge on which nobody avoids falling into the water!
Family day. We took Dima and Roma to a "wet and whacky" session at Littledown. The flumes were working and they really enjoyed using them!
We always get the children to make thank you cards for their hosts and for the helpers. That was the main point of the morning which we spent at Henbury View School. The afternoon was spent at Sandbanks for a swim and playing on the beach. Many of the youngsters were quite confident in the water by this stage and the majority were happy to stay in the sea until we fished them out!
Tuesday 1st August
In the morning we were the guests of Cobham Aviation on the edge of Bournemouth Airport. Gary Wakefield had always welcomed us but had delegated Alex Smee with the honour. Natasha was available to translate which pleased our Natalia because it meant she could relax from the rigours of having to do it. The highlight as always, was for the youngsters in pairs to climb into the cockpit of one of the Falcon 20 that was standing on the tarmac.
Tower Park is another Mecca for the tourist industry and we are fortunate to have that on our doorstep too. We always leave Splashdown until the last week when most of the youngsters and confident enough to use the myriad of flumes and water rides there. They had great fun and wore themselves out!
Wednesday 2nd August
The final activity of the visit is another water activity courtesy of Rockley Sailing at Poole Park Lake. The weather was dreadful but on the basis that it is, in any case, a wet activity the eight boys (plus helpers) assemble on one giant surf board and the girls (plus helpers) on another. Nine of the group stuck out until the bitter end and those that did had a lot of fun on the canoes.
The Leaving Party and concert took place at 6.30pm. During the afternoon the girls had their hair appointments - and thanks go to Munroes in Corfe Mullen for doing that again. The concert was splendid. Natalia had insisted on having enough time for the children to rehearse over the days leading up to the evening and it really paid off. They all looked smart in their national costumes. At the top pf this page there is a link to a video so you can share in this lovely evening. The children, remember, are a random sample and are not brought here because they are particularly musical. It is a great testament to their education system that they were able to put on such a super concert.
A shared supper followed and then the disco from DJ Dave and Kit (They were married just a few weeks before!) Dave has done this for us for many years and the kids really enjoyed it as always. We finished up with the Hokey Cokey then Auld Langs Syne.
Thursday 3rd August
This was a family day. We took our two boys shopping for small gifts to take back. We processed the last few photographs and ended up at Asda to buy the boys school clothes to take back and to get a picnic lunch. We had asked the boys what they wanted to do on their last day. They agreed that we should go to "the little house" (beach hut), go crabbing, go swimming and have fish and chips in a restaurant! Although the swimming was to be at Broadstone Junction.
As we ate lunch the boys watched some other English youngsters body boarding in the waves. They decided to try that, very successfully as it turned out. We all had to be in the sea because of the drift, but it was a great way to end their last visit to the beach. We went on to do some crabbing and finally ate fish and chips at Daniel's in Broadstone.
Friday 4th August
Leaving for the airport is always a bit sad. Hosts and children can get very emotional. The children, on the whole, though impoverished by our standards, do come from loving homes and it is to their loving families that they return.