Children from the Ukrainian city of Chernobyl paid a visit to Finch Farm in early June as part of an annual trip to Merseyside.
Since 2003, the Club and charity Friends of Chernobyl’s Children have organised for a group of youngsters, aged between eight and 12, to spend one month each summer in the area - a break which incredibly adds an entire year on to their life expectancy.
Inhabitants of Chernobyl are still suffering the effects of the 1986 nuclear power plant accident which killed 31 but is claimed to be responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands of others through related health issues.
The children enjoyed a training session with one of Everton's Academy coaches and later received gifts and a tour of the Club’s state-of-the-art facilities.
“The one month that they stay here will add a year to their life expectancy which, for me, is fantastic,” said Martin Waldron, Everton's head of local recruitment and one of many staff members who welcome a child into their family home each year.
“The money that actually goes into the charity, you can see the value of it as everything gets spent on the children and nobody else gets anything out of it. For me, it’s a great charity.”
As well as spending time at Finch Farm, the children also get to experience local attractions such as Liverpool’s Albert Dock, Knowsley Safari Park and Blackpool Pleasure Beach.
For Martin, the greatest experience is seeing the children grow with every passing year.
“They do a host of activities and spend a day in an English school but to have one of the kids live with you for the month and see them grow and get healthier, you just can’t beat it.
“My own girl, Nastia, has been coming six years now and this is the best for me she has looked. She’s put weight on, she’s grown and she looks a lot healthier.
“She’s fantastic and she speaks good English now. She’s actually taught her niece, who is nearly three, the alphabet in English, which is really good.”
Plans to bring the children back in 2014 are already underway, with a recent fundraiser adding almost £10,000 to the Friends of Chernobyl’s Children coffers.
“We’ll always be here for them,” added Martin. “The staff at Everton are great. We’ve raised a fantastic amount of money through dinners and the Everton staff football team.
“The only problem is I’ve lost my penalty taker, David Weir, to Sheffield United. I’m trying to recruit Franny Jeffers now instead!”
For more information on the charity’s work, click here.