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Helping Kids Smile

Helping Kids SmileTufts and its affiliate hospitals help provide free dental, medical care to children from Russia's contaminated Chernobyl region.

Boston [07.23.01] Fifteen years after a nuclear explosion rocked the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in the Ukraine, spreading 190 tons of highly radioactive material across the Russian landscape, the residents of the region continue to suffer from the disaster. They face long-term medical, economic and social problems, but the families of Chernobyl have found a reason to smile.

Medical experts from Tufts and its affiliate teaching hospitals have teamed up with a Boston non-profit to provide free dental and medical care to children from the region.

The Boston Globe reported that about 145 children, between the ages of eight and 15 years old, arrived in Boston this month to stay with host families around the region for the next month. Facing a myriad of health problems -- from poor nutrition to cancer -- the trip not only lifts the children's spirits, but could actually extend their lives.

"[According to one volunteer] just being here for one month keeps the children's radiation levels down so they are expected to live an extra two years," reported the Globe.

The Chernobyl Children Project arranged for Boston-area families to host pairs of children, giving them food, clothes and a break from the contamination of Chernobyl.

The children are also getting much-needed medical care, which is unavailable in the Ukraine.

According to Boston's WBZ-4 News, "Thirty eight youngsters visiting from parts of Russia that had been contaminated by radiation got some free dental care at Tufts' Dental School. They all need extensive dental care because of poor nutrition and long-term exposure to radiation."

According to officials at the School of Dental Medicine, many of the children needed between 16 and 18 fillings each, as well as multiple extractions. But the children didn't mind the trip.

"Most of us wouldn't call a trip to the dentist 'something good,' but these kids certainly do," reported WBZ. "Three cheers for Tufts."

Several of Tufts' teaching hospitals, including the The Floating Hospital for Children at New England Medical Center and the Lahey Clinic, also provided free medical care to the children.

Of course, the children also have plenty of time to enjoy their trip to the U.S.

"In addition to free medical and dental visits, the children are being treated to a baseball game, a Boston harbor cruise, ice cream socials, picnics, movies, shopping trips, a New England Revolution soccer game, and other events," reported the Globe.

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