In 1992 Brenda Dinsdale of Newcastle Reform Synagogue (now a Reform Judaism Board member) became involved with a charity helping children affected by the 1986 Chernobyl disaster and in 1997 started a special group offering assistance to teenagers –the forgotten kids, who had spent their lives in institutionalised care.
She travelled to Belarus over 30 times, visiting orphanages, special schools and hospitals and even going into the ‘forbidden’ areas, where the contamination was extremely high. She saw for herself the impact the world’s worst nuclear disaster had on the young people. In 2007, she was given the second highest civilian award for her efforts in helping to mitigate the effects of the Chernobyl disaster.
Even after retirement, she maintained links with ‘her’ children and the Embassy of Belarus and when the charity ‘Chernobyl Continuity’ closed down, the remaining funds were used to provide additional resources for a school in Mogilev where the pupils suffered from scoliosis of the spine. An unexpected gift of £2,000, the result of a sponsored climb up Mount Snowden by pupils of Ellesmere College provided computers for the school for deaf children in Mstislavl.
On 2 June this year, Brenda was astonished to receive a further Award of Honour for her personal contribution. “It was most unexpected”, she said, “and a great privilege to receive such recognition. I have always felt an affinity with the people of Belarus, maybe because it is possible my family originated from there”.
There is no doubt that Brenda will ‘continue’ her association with the country and the people she loves so much.