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

Kentish Express Ashford & District - - Sounds Good -

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.

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