Our speaker this week was our very own Bernard Bettles, who spoke to us about his work with the Chernobyl Children of Belarus.
The children of Belarus were seriously affected by the nuclear cloud that was blown across the country after the Chernobyl nuclear reactor exploded in the 1980s. In the 1990s Bernard helped to co-ordinate visits from the children to the UK and he explained, in a touching and light-hearted way in equal measure, how the children benefitted from enjoying clear air and uncontaminated food for a few weeks and also how the people of our area got to know some of the children so well over several years.
Other work that Bernard got involved with included trying to provide better conditions for the children once they returned home, including clothing them with end of line stock from Animal (donated free of charge) and in particular The Seed Project – providing seeds so that they could grow their own produce. The seeds and equipment were all shipped out from the UK to one of the schools in Marina Gorka so that the local children could start to grow vegetables in uncontaminated soil that would not harm them further. Moreover, any surplus that they grew was sold to local people thus benefitting the wider community.
Another project that Bernard got involved with was in helping to provide furniture for another school in Minsk. The money was raised in the UK through local schools, churches, Swanage Rotary and Swanage Lions, but the furniture was bought locally in Belarus to benefit the local economy as well as the school.
On behalf of the club Rotarian Mick Beck proposed a vote of thanks to Bernard, not only for his presentation but for his years of service to Swanage Rotary on what is his farewell meeting. Happy ‘Retirement’ Bernard!
Earlier in the evening, President Ro Clark was delighted to present a Paul Harris Fellowship to Deirdre Selwyn for her many years of work with numerous charities and causes and her dedication to the health and welfare of the community. Deirdre was typically modest about her achievements but delighted to have received the honour.