CRIPPLED by an ever-increasing rent, a charity shop in Old Town dedicated to the welfare of the children of Belarus has been left with no choice but to close down.
After a hard-fought battle to stay afloat, the Chernobyl Children’s Life Line store will fold at the end of the month – three years after launching on Victoria Road.
During its short lifespan the shop, which sells anything from home furniture to books and trinkets, has seen its rent rocket from around £9,000 per year to more than £15,000 according to volunteer David Simonds.
Funds raised through the shop allowed children growing up in Belarus and neighbouring Ukraine in the aftermath of the world’s worst nuclear disaster to travel to the UK for a month each year for respite care.
“It is disappointing,” said David. “But all the time we’ve been here has been a struggle. It’s got more difficult to make money from the shop. We are proud of what we did here but it’s just not possible anymore.
“The main goal was to bring children from the Belarus and Ukraine area to the UK.
“It’s just too much to make the money for the rent and for the children. We won’t be able to bring the kids over.”
To boost cash flow, the team started a cafe for shoppers around Christmas time, selling hot drinks for £1. But by Easter the coffee corner was scrapped.
Contending with online giants like Amazon selling books at competitive prices and trading in general had been difficult for volunteers, who struggled to attract customers.
“People don’t buy books so much – they have Kindles or they buy cheap ones on the net and it’s more and more difficult to sell them,” added David.
“They forget about charity shops. We started a coffee shop after Christmas but it closed at Easter. It seemed like a good idea but it didn’t work out. It’s a shame.”
Former shop volunteer Rosie Baylies, who welcomed two children from Chernobyl into her home last year as part of the charity’s family project, said: “The rent went up each year. Shops across the country help to bring thousands of children to the UK for a month each year and that break is supposed to increase their life span by two years. It’s a holiday. But so much money went into the rent. It was difficult.”
To find out more about Chernobyl Children’s Life Line visit www.ccll.org.uk