What do Arsenal Football Club, British and Ukrainian charities, the Chernihiv regional authorities and former British ambassadors in Kyiv have in common? Answer: all have helped support a remarkable institution, the Chernihiv “Revival” centre for the social and medical rehabilitation of children.
I’m visiting Chernihiv to help celebrate the 15th anniversary of the “Revival” centre. It’s an inspiring story. In the early 1990s, several British charities began working to help the centre, which had a particular role in helping children affected by the 1986 Chernobyl catastrophe around 100 kilometres away (Chernihiv is just north of Kyiv).
A tour of the centre is inspirational. Specialists working with the children and their parents include neurologists, paediatricians, psychiatrists, physiotherapists, massage therapists, music teachers and speech therapists. At the entrance I am greeted by two smartly-dressed children who greet me in impeccable Ukrainian and English. The head of the centre, Dr Pasechnik, then shows me round the classrooms, where children are receiving an impressive range of teaching and therapy using modern equipment and materials provided in many cases by British charities.
The breadth of cooperation and people-to-people links at the “Revival” centre is, together with the children themselves, perhaps the most impressive part of what is happening in Chernihiv. British charities such as “Felsted Aid for Deprived Children,” “Forgotten Children” and “British Aid for Deprived Children”, all run by dedicated volunteers, have linked up with counterparts in Ukraine and with the “Revival” centre and over the course of over 15 years have helped build an outstanding institution. The participation of British charities, in turn, has encouraged the development of charities in Ukraine and support from the authorities. At the ceremony to mark the anniversary, local authority representatives present awards to the British charities recognising their achievement. Charity representatives, in turn, tell me how rewarding they have found their contacts with Ukrainian colleagues and friends and the warmth of the welcome they have received. Best of all, such cooperation looks set to continue. As an example of how grassroots contacts between different countries can enrich people on both sides, it’s hard to beat.