Bupa Dental Care practices across the UK have partnered with charitable organisations to provide free dental check-ups, treatment and oral health education to groups of children still living with the after-effects of the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster.
Each year, Friends of Chernobyl’s Children and Chernobyl Children’s Lifeline bring children from poverty-stricken areas of Belarus and Ukraine to the UK for a four-week trip to receive recuperative care. The children, aged seven to 12, are often in need of dental and medical attention.
The Chernobyl nuclear disaster has received renewed interest recently, following the historical mini-series ‘Chernobyl’ by HBO and Sky UK. Despite these children being born more than two decades after the 1986 event, areas of Belarus - which received over 70% of the radioactive fallout from the nuclear explosion – are still badly contaminated.
Paula Darkin, practice manager at Bupa Dental Care Morpeth, said: “Sadly, the effects of the Chernobyl disaster continue to be felt to this day. Children from the region are still suffering from high levels of radiation poisoning, yet access to quality healthcare remains a significant challenge, so we’re keen to support these children in whatever way we can.”
Bupa Dental Care Peterborough has a long-standing partnership with Friends of Chernobyl’s Children, and hope the visit will teach children good oral health habits that will last a lifetime.
Karen Bampkin, practice manager, explains: "This is the thirteenth year that the charity has come to visit. During their appointment with us, the children receive a full dental examination, any treatment they need, and they leave with a goody bag, including school supplies and tooth-brushing essentials, along with information on how to look after their teeth back at home.
“Teaching children to take care of their teeth is so incredibly important. Dental decay is completely preventable, so by promoting good habits now we can help them have a healthy, happy smile for the rest of their lives.”
While in the UK, the children stay with a host family where they’re fed nutritious meals, given daily vitamin supplements and provided with clean clothes. They also enjoy a full programme of activities, including school lessons, English lessons, swimming and other sports, a visit to the optician, and lots of other fun recreational activities and trips.
Cecilia Hammond, Friends of Chernobyl’s Children group co-ordinator, added: “As a charity, we are reliant on the goodwill of companies such as Bupa Dental Care and we are very grateful that they are on hand to help provide the children with some much-needed care and respite.”
The trips are a genuinely life-changing experience. It has been proven that the break from their home environment can improve the children’s immune systems and increase their life expectancy. The recuperative care boosts their physical and mental health, helping them live longer, healthier and happier lives.