The families that help the children have a great time whilst in the UK fall into two categories:
A family that can host two children for either two, or four weeks during the summer.
A buddy family, who may be unable to host, but can provide assistance to hosting families.
Host families welcome children into their homes as part of their own family. Over the years many hosts have acquired "extended families" as contact is maintained over the years with children that have stayed with them. Some hosts get very attached to the children and pay for them to return to the UK on a private basis, once again arranged through the charity.
A hosting family get no financial reward - the reward comes in seeing children blossom during their time in the UK.
With the problems of Belarus, Ukraine and Chernobyl put to one side, the children can enjoy themselves.
Many links arrange group activities and outings during the four weeks for the children and their host families. This gives the children the chance to interact and to be able to talk together in their own language. Everyone visits the dentist and optician during their first visit. From necessity some of the cancer care in their home country has become very advanced, however some of the dentists and opticians equipment dates back to the 1950s!
The children are in the UK for up to four weeks but some families may only be able to host for part of that time, this is not a problem. We can arrange for two families to share the four week period and ensure a smooth transition from one family to the other. We recommend that children are hosted in pairs so that they can relax together.
The buddy families help the hosting families to look after the children, when called upon by the host family. There may be times when family matters take precedence over activities. It may be that a "sitter" is required when the host family has to be away from home during the stay. These support families provide an integral part of the hosting activity.
Whilst most of the activity takes place during the months visit, the whole process requires lots of dedicated work throughout the year by the link committee, fund raising and planning the visit . Although a lot depends on supporters and sponsors for what we can get for free, it costs our links in the region of £450 per child for the month. This does not sound much until you multiply it by the number of children that each link hosts, 10 children is £4,500, 50 children is £22,500 - and some links DO bring 50 children across each year. This money has to be raised locally by the link and any help towards this, or any offers of assistance are always welcome.
There is always someone on hand to offer advice if needed. We always have Belarusian or Ukrainian leaders with the group who can speak English and is on call twenty-four hours a day. Of course there are some families that have hosted many times and can pass on tips and experiences to you. As a host family you will be provided with a manual of advice and rules, together with a glossary section in Belarusian or Ukrainian. You are never left to cope on your own.
On the serious side, each hosting or buddying family is carefully checked and must complete a full disclosure DBS/VF form (we will help you with this) before they can host a child. Each hosts home is inspected (by two Link officers) to ensure that the children will have a good experience whilst in the UK.
It is important that we understand the trust that the children's parents have put in us. At the request of the charity we have been audited by the NSPCC to ensure that our safety and selection procedures provide a consistently high level of protection for the children.