An ordinary little boy on a great adventure
Clare Singleton of Great Chart and her family were among last year’s host families. Here she describes the experience
JUST before Christmas 2007, the Kentish Express published an article about two young girls who had come over to Ashford from Chernobyl hoping to enjoy a month of fresh food and clean air. Reading this moving story touched a nerve and after much family discussion we decided to find out more. We contacted Sarah Day, the Ashford Link co-ordinator, and I met her to see what was involved. My concerns centred on not speaking Russian and how we would communicate with a young boy away from his family (perhaps for the first time). Would he get on with my son and our family? What would he think of our food? Sarah reassured me we would find a way of communicating and would be fully supported by an interpreter and other families who had hosted before. We decided to try. There was a feeling of apprehension as we drove to collect Slava, our charge for the fortnight. We didn’t know much more than he was 11 years old and liked sport. What a moment for Slava – going off with complete strangers. We discovered he had never left his village and the furthest he had travelled was to Minsk to arrange his passport for the journey. We got into the car and my son had to show him how to put his seatbelt on. At home we showed him his room and all he wanted to do was to go to bed. Before this he rang his mum and dad to let them know he had arrived safely. He looked exhausted but promptly retrieved his bag and presented us with a simple table cloth and napkins which he had brought as gifts from his family. Swallow hard. Over the next few mornings Slava tried various options for breakfast. How do you know what he likes? Rather like the Roman emperors, thumbs up was good, thumbs down was bad. What was good? Simple things like going around a corner in a car, fishing, taking the dog for a walk, picnics. We discovered he had never stood on a beach and seen the sea. Winchelsea was simple but a revelation. Having a child to stay was a really good experience for our family. I was staggered by the response from friends and family who inundated us with requests and ideas for ways to spend time with Slava. Slava was a very healthy looking boy and behaved no differently to any child of his age in this country. A little boy from an ordinary family living a life so different from ours went on a great adventure. His parents entrusted their most treasured possession to the care of complete strangers. We hope we lived up to that trust. Would we do it again? Absolutely.