Six Chernobyl children, who are living in Oldham with host families for a month, will be flag bearers for the Roughyeds’ League 1 clash against Keighley Cougars on Sunday.
Aged between nine and 11, the three boys and three girls arrived in Oldham on May 26 as part of the initiative set up by the Oldham Link of the national charity Chernobyl Children’s Lifeline.
For more than 30 years this charity has carried out a recuperation programme to bring children from Belarus and North Ukraine to stay with British families for a month.
The Oldham Link is the local support group for helping children who still suffer the effects of low level radiation from the nuclear accident at Chernobyl in 1986.
Belarus and North Ukraine received a large proportion of the radioactive fall-out which, more than 30 years after it happened, continues to cause serious health problems to those who live there.
The Oldham Link brings children to the borough every year so they can enjoy and benefit from things that we take for granted — uncontaminated food, fresh air, sunshine, exciting trips out, lots of exercise and, most importantly, love and friendship.
Formed 30 years ago by Theresa Novotny, who is still active as the local leader, the Oldham Link not only provides host families but raises funds to pay for air fares, visas, clothing, trips, transport etc and is mindful that there are lots of children over there who are still waiting to come for respite.
One of the local host families, and Mrs Albiston of Lees, say the children who come here for respite are in great need and are truly grateful and deeply appreciative of everything that’s done to help them.
“Going to a rugby league match, indeed going to any sporting event, will be a new experience for them and they’ll love it, especially carrying the flag out on to the pitch,” said Mark Albiston.
Club chairman Chris Hamilton added: “The people who work hard for these children do a great job and deserve our support. Oldham RLFC is pleased to be able to help.
“The Oldham Link (Chernobyl) will hold a bucket collection at the game on Sunday and we know our fans will be as generous as they can be.”