Lambton family hosts radiation victims from Belarus


Sitting at the kitchen table in Ralph and Martha Everingham's Blackwell Road home, Alina Karankevich lets out a soft cough.

It's a sound the Everinghams know well.

The two are host parents for children from radiation-ravaged Belarus, giving the kids a respite from an environment still agitated by the effects of the Chernobyl power plant meltdown in 1986.

"When they first arrive, they usually have a cough. And their skin has bruises, from the radiation," Martha Everingham said.

"There skin is a lot paler," her husband added, "but it gets better once they're here."

Karankevich, 10, and 12-year-old Violetta Lisavets' six-week stay in Lambton County marks the Everingham's ninth year as a host family.

Lisavets stayed with the family two years ago.

"It's good to have her back," Ralph Everingham said.

The girls sit quietly, occasionally shooting whispers back in forth in Russian. Their visit to Sarnia is part of the Canadian Relief Fund for Child Victims in Belarus, an international program that serves more than 10,000 children.

The organization's local chapter, the Chatham-Kent Essex Chernobyl Fund, currently has 37 sponsor families who are taking care of 39 children.

When the Chernobyl meltdown happened in the former USSR, now what is the Ukraine, scientists say upwards of 70 per cent of the radiation fell on neighbouring Belarus. And the effects still linger today. Thyroid cancer is rampant in the country, Martha said, and many credit it to the radiation exposure.