Chernobyl children light up South Essex on their eighth annual visit

South Essex coaches (back, left to right) Verity Adams, Andrew Tucker, Rebecca Wright, Dave Rapley and Matt Jackson with the 12 children affected by the Chernobyl disastet who visited SEGC in July 2016
South Essex coaches (back, left to right) Verity Adams, Andrew Tucker, Rebecca Wright, Dave Rapley and Matt Jackson with the 12 children affected by the Chernobyl disaster who visited SEGC in July 2016

STAFF at South Essex were delighted as always to welcome children affected by the Chernobyl disaster on their eighth annual visit to the Basildon-based gymnastics club. 

A dozen Ukrainian youngsters aged 11-14, accompanied by a translator, enjoyed a morning swim at the Basildon Sporting Village before getting the chance to practice their gymnastics skills with coaches at SEGC in the afternoon.

Head of Rhythmic Verity Adams, Head of Gym School Dave Rapley, Assistant Director of Coaching Matt Jackson, Senior Recreational Coach Rebecca Wright and Senior General Artistic Coach Andrew Tucker put on a two-hour session on the club’s specialist apparatus.

It is 30 years since the accident at a nuclear power plant in Russia left a lasting legacy of terrible health consequences for families across a large section of east Europe.

And – as part of the Chernobyl Children Lifeline partnership with the Billericay and South Essex Link – the children kept up their tradition of staying with families in Billericay for a four-week summer holiday.

Adams said:  “For me it is the most rewarding thing we do here as coaches every year.

“These children have gone through such hardships but they are so positive and it is great to try to give them a day to enjoy.”

SEGC Administration Manager Natasha Poulter and Administration Assistant Maria Williams also put on a tasty spread of refreshments – and the strawberries went down a storm with fresh produce such a scarcity in their homeland due to the contaminated soil.

Rapley said: “During the break we provided them with fresh fruit, juice and biscuits, and they destroyed the strawberries in no time!

“Then we took them back into the gym for a few more things including rhythmic gymnastics for the girls and one of the girls in particular showed great potential.”