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Last Updated: Sunday, 8 July 2007, 08:22 GMT 09:22 UK
Chernobyl children boating break
Canal boat
The children will travel from Goytre Wharf to Llanover
A group of 18 children suffering the effects of the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster are enjoying a Welsh holiday.

The group, from Chernihiv, 30km from the site of the Ukraine explosion, are in remission from cancer or other life-threatening illnesses.

They are spending Sunday on the Brecon and Monmouthshire canal, followed by a barbecue and music laid on by locals.

On Tuesday, they fly over Snowdonia to Caernarfon, where they hope to get to the beach.

The children, aged seven to 14, grew up in the shadow of the world's worst nuclear catastrophe, although it happened years before any of them were born. Official UN figures predicted up to 9,000 Chernobyl-related cancer deaths, although the environmental group Greenpeace has claimed that the actual number would be 93,000.

Greenpeace has also argued that other illnesses could take the toll to 200,000.

They are very timid when they first come here but become more positive and more confident
David Chatfield, of Camps for Children of Chernobyl

The holiday is organised every year by the charity Camps for Children of Chernobyl and a doctor and interpreter have to travel with the group at all times.

The areas where the children live are very deprived and highly contaminated, explained Dave Chatfield, executive director of the charity.

Passports have to be arranged for every child as none would have ever expected to leave their small village.

Bringing them to the UK, even for a short break, helps boost their immune systems, he said. When they first arrive, they spend a week doing team-building activities such as assault courses, canoeing and rafting to build their confidence.

Child in Chernobyl
A child photographed by Laurence Squires on a visit to Chernobyl

"After the seventh day they are full of confidence and back up to full strength. It changes their thoughts around totally," he said. "They are more positive in everything that they do.

"You see a real difference... they are very timid when they first come here but become more positive and more confident."

All the activities on the itinerary are made possible by donations from members of public, including the owners of the four narrow boats who will transport the children for the trip along the canal on Sunday before a visit to a traditional pub and a concert.

Mr Chatfield said the trip on the canal was a time for the children to "relax and enjoy themselves."

Two days later the children will fly to Caernarfon for a behind-the-scenes look at the home of the air ambulance.

"They will be going around the museum at Caernarfon airfield and going down to the beach then if the weather is good to have a paddle. They will be flying back over the top of Snowdonia," explained Mr Chatfield.

The children are spending a total of two weeks in the UK, staying in Herefordshire where the charity is based.

Children's radiation zone escape
26 Apr 06 |  South East Wales
Chernobyl's unsettling legacy
22 Apr 06 |  Europe
'Too little known on Chernobyl'
19 Apr 06 |  Health

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