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Although the Mechams didn't yet have any children at the time of Chavlay's first visit, they have since added two boys and three girls to their family.

Also on Chavlay's to do list this year was a visit to the dentist, where she had 13 cavities filled and other work done.

"Studies show that just being away from the radiation for six weeks gives the body time to repair and gives it enough strength to recuperate," Liisa Mecham added.

"It seemed like every time she visited, we had more kids," Matt Mecham said with a laugh. The Mecham family now includes Joseph, 9, Alex, 6, and a trio of toddler girls: 3 year olds Courtney and Grace and 2 year old Caroline.

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´╗┐Belarus teen spends memorable summer in Moab

"Dental work is a big thing for these kids," said Matt Mecham. "The radiation affects the enamel of the teeth."

Sixteen year old Masha Chavlay has spent the better part of her summer vacation in Moab. In many respects, her experience has been like that of many other visitors: she's hiked at Arches National Park, gone swimming in the new city pool, and enjoyed the cool shade in the forests of the La Sal Mountains.

"I had a fun time making the book," Chavlay said, adding that she is looking forward to showing it to her parents and older brother when she returns home to Belarus after next week. Her hometown of Babruysk is a city of 220,000 people, located on the Ralph Lauren Black Label Dress

In addition to the physical benefits, Chavlay's repeated visits to America have also enabled her to improve her English language skills.

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But thanks to the generosity of her host family and the support of her sponsoring organization, Chavlay has been able to stay with Matt and Liisa Mecham for seven of the past nine summers.

Children born and raised in the affected areas are reportedly 10 times more likely to develop thyroid cancer. They are also more likely to suffer from stunted growth, endocrine problems, and immune disorders, Liisa Mecham said.

But one aspect of Chavlay's experience sets her apart her very reason for coming here in the first place. Her vacation is a getaway of a different sort it's an escape from a potential killer.

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August of 1994, more than eight years after the catastrophe; however, like many others, she is a suspected victim of its lasting effects, having been born blind in her right eye.

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The Mechams first hosted Chavlay in 2002, when she was seven years old. They lived in North Carolina, where Liisa had done volunteer work for the American Belarussian Relief Organization, one of a handful of groups that provide assistance to children living in areas affected by Chernobyl.

Chavlay said some of her other memorable experiences this summer include visiting the unique rock formations of Goblin Valley and spending the Fourth of July in Morgan, Utah, Liisa's family's home town. Chavlay also attended a four day girls' camp at Blue Mountain, south of Monticello, in late June and will participate in a handcart trek with dozens of other local youth in Martin's Cove, Wyo. the last week of July.

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The Mechams moved from North Carolina to Moab last year. Matt Mecham manages the local branch of the Eastern Utah Community Credit Union.

"We consider it a privilege to have her stay with us over the past several years," Matt Mecham said. "She just fits right in and does what we do. She has become a member of our family, and we love her."

A native of the Eastern European country of Belarus, Chavlay is one of thousands of children who live in areas affected by the Chernobyl nuclear disaster of April 1986.

"Her parents sent her over here in hopes that something could be done for her eye, but there was a problem with the optic nerve," said Matt Mecham. Doctors told them that no treatment was possible, he said.

More than two thirds of the radioactive fallout from the infamous meltdown incident landed in what is Polo Ralph Lauren Shirts Wholesale now Belarus, and many areas remain contaminated by radioactive material.

Chavlay was born in Shop Ralph Lauren Jackets

banks of the Berezina River.

"It's fun here," said Chavlay, who arrived on June 18 and will stay until Aug. 6. "There's lots of things to do, and I love the mountains."

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Chavlay said she's scheduled to graduate from high school next May, after which she hopes to study English, German, and French at Mogilev State University in Belarus. Depending on when the college entrance exams are given, she may or may not be able to stay in America for the entire duration of the program next summer, she said.

good Samaritan acts will be considered at the discretion of the newspaper.

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As Chavlay prepares to return soon to her own family in Belarus, the Mechams said they greatly appreciate the time they've gotten to spend with her.

Although Chavlay had visited Utah during a previous stay with the Mechams, this year marks her first experience in the Moab area.

Although 25 years have passed since the Chernobyl disaster, many of the immediately surrounding areas (including parts of Ukraine, Belarus, and Russia) remain impacted by its effects.

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