Anton Vdovichenko, a leading member of the NGO called "Radimichi: For the Children of Chernobyl," said in a recent interview in Japan he wants to tell victims of the crisis at the radiation-leaking Fukushima Daiichi plant they are "not alone."
The 34-year-old said he grew up in the town of Novozybkov, an area designated as a contamination zone even though it is about 180 kilometers northeast of the Chernobyl plant.
He said the group that his father Pavel set up a year after the 1986 accident to support young people in the disaster-hit areas has expertise that can help people in Fukushima because they could have similar problems in several years.
The group conducted health checkups on a total of 10,000 people aged 12 or older in the town as well as other regions and found 70 percent of them had health problems such as thyroid diseases, Anton Vdovichenko said.
In Novozybkov, people are still warned it is dangerous to eat mushrooms and fish from rivers, and many have lost their jobs but only receive 500 to 600 rubles (about 1,300 to 1,500 yen) per month each as compensation.
Vdovichenko came to Japan for the first time to attend a series of antinuclear conferences organized by the Japan Congress Against A- and H-Bombs in Fukushima, Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Vdovichenko, the father of a 14-year-old boy and a 7-year-old girl, said his NGO is also helping young people who have problems with drug abuse and alcohol addiction.
"The parents don't have enough money and one thing they do every day is drinking...beer or vodka. And their children start to do the same," Vdovichenko said. "I hope the people in Fukushima would not have the same problems as we have."
His group has organized summer camp projects taking children to escape from the highly contaminated area for around three weeks to safer places. In 2007 Russian tennis star Maria Sharapova donated $30,000 to the camp project, he said.