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10,000 “Chernobyl Children” Convalescing in Austria
Caritas Upper Austria invited a group of children from Belarus and sponsors of their convalescence program to a reception in the Ars Electronica Center.

A group of children spending their vacation in the Austrian City of Steyr until July 23 included the 10,000th child from Belarus to participate in Caritas’ Chernobyl Children’s Convalescence Program. At a small celebration at the Ars Electronica Center in Linz, Caritas Upper Austria expressed thanks to the program’s host parents, organizers and sponsors for their committed assistance. The delighted bunch of 14 kids from Belarus was then invited on a guided tour of the Ars Electronica Center. They also received gift certificates good for clothing at C&A and Humanic.

Caritas Upper Austria’s Chernobyl Children’s Convalescence Program was established in 1991 as the outgrowth of a relief program launched by the magazine “Welt der Frau” to benefit young victims of the Chernobyl catastrophe. That was the birth of the idea to enable children from the region contaminated by radiation to spend a convalescence stay in Austria. Every year since then, 500 to 800 youngsters between the ages of 8 and 14 come from Belarus to spend a restful and refreshing 3- to 4-week stay in Austria. Most of the kids stay with host parents in Upper Austria. A few spend their vacation in Tyrol, Vienna and vicinity and Carinthia, some living in youth hostels. This year’s group of approximately 500 youngsters and 55 chaperones from Belarus will be accommodated by about 300 host families.

The kids come not only from the area directly affected by the reactor catastrophe but rather from all over Belarus. To this day, 20% of the country’s agricultural land is still contaminated by radiation. Moreover, half of the population of Belarus lives below the poverty level and has to get by on less than 35 euros a month. “Thus, the children’s health is threatened not only by foodstuffs contaminated with radiation but also by undernourishment because their parents can’t afford healthy nutrition,” said Mathias Mühlberger, director of Caritas in Upper Austria.

The program is organized by the foreign aid initiative of Caritas Upper Austria in cooperation with Caritas Belarus, but there are a lot more “helping hands” who contribute to the program’s success. “The actual work is done by the host parents. They see to it that their guests feel well during their stay here. It’s thanks to them that the children can regain strength and return home with a satchel full of wonderful experiences and lasting friendships,” Mathias Mühlberger said. “A great job is also being done by the volunteer organizers who are each responsible for a group of children while they’re in Austria. They collect donations for the program and recruit host parents.” Mühlberger went on to thank the Catholic Women’s Movement as well as a group of women dedicated to carrying on the tradition of the region’s historical costumes, who also organized groups and collected donations in conjunction with the program.

For further information, please contact:

Mag. Edith Zehetner
Caritas Kommunikation
Kapuzinerstr. 84
4020 Linz
Tel.: 0732/7610-2050
Fax: 0732/7610-2121

Mag. Wolfgang Bednarzek
Pressesprecher Ars Electronica

AEC Ars Electronica Center Linz
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Fax ++43.732.7272-638


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