The Thurles Friends of the Children of Chernobyl group have had a very busy summer so far and from talking to chairperson Mary Murphy the work is not over yet.
They have just said goodbye to fifteen wonderful children from the region of Belarus who have been staying with host families in the area for the past month and now they must turn their attention to filling and organising their container which leaves on August 18th for Belarus filled with medical supplies, clothing and furniture.
The charity was set up in 1994 (registered with Revenue under CHY 12029) in response to the fallout from the Chernobyl disaster which happened in the Ukraine. But the area worst affected was the small country of Belarus as 70 percent of the total radioactive fallout from the accident descended on nearly one-fourth of the country and affected around 500,000 children. Since it's inception the group have brought thousands of children from Belarus to Ireland for a month long holiday each year. Different children come each year to spend time with host families around the country and where it is needed receive medical, dental and sight care.
Members of the committee who travelled to Belarus in April had an opportunity to discuss the situation regarding the children's health some 30 years after the nuclear disaster with Dr Tikhanava (Paediatrician). In her opinion there still remains a lot of thyroid cancers and thyroid problems along with other ailments. The months holiday in a radiation free area is paramount to the wellbeing of the children as they come to Ireland around the age of puberty, from 10 to 12 years, and their stay has enormous benefits to their health and wellbeing. She also stated to us that the children's welfare is further complicated by the difficult economic climate in Belarus. The month long holiday adds two years to their lives and when the group visited the families they were warmly greeted by families whose children had visited Ireland as they as parents were able to see what a difference the month had made to their children.
The charity fundraises all year round and this year the GAA club in Ballingarry, where there have been many host families down the years, decided to donate the proceeds from their Family Fun Day to the charity. Their name came up at one of the meetings when the GAA were organising their Family Fun Day when chairman Michael Fitzgerald telephoned Mary to see if they would be interested in coming on board. As a committee they were delighted with this news. The two organisations got together and everybody involved worked very hard to make the event a great success. The event raised a vital €1,700 for the charity. This money will go directly to their Food Aid programme which supports 21 families from October to April.
The charity has also held very successful bag packs, church gate collections and Bingo to raise funds as well as numerious other fundraising activities.
The charity also supports a centre in Logishin where they run computer training classes and medical staff from a care centre in Pinsk come to help invalid people in the area. The most difficult and expensive items for the people of the area to source are medical supplies, especially incontinence nappies. The group supports three invalid centres, four hospitals and three nursing homes so any kind of medical supplies that people can donate would be most appreciated. A container will be leaving the area in the next couple of weeks and Mary would urge anybody who has spare medical supplies at home that they no longer need or use to please donate them. They urgently need incontinent nappies, walking sticks, dressings, support stockings and good quality bed linen and towels. These items will be distributed between hospitals and care homes so it is vital that they are in excellent condition. She has also asked for blankets along with bed clothing. They cannot accept duvets.
The committee are overwhelmed each year by the support they receive from people and organisations in support of their work. When the children visit they receive dental care from Liam Tuohy of The Mall Dental Practice in Thurles, eye care from Fiona Kavanagh at Jennings Opticians in Thurles, Tommy Kavanagh Coaches and his helpful drivers who are their disposal from the arrival to the departure of the children and at a special mass for the children they receive crosses donated by Michael's Jewellers (Michael Carew) Thurles. This year to mark the 30th anniversary of the disaster a special mass was given by Fr Vincent Ryan in Thurles Cathedral and Bishop Kieran O'Reilly attended to present the children with their crosses.
The committee would like to take this opportunity to thank everybody who helps them in anyway especially host families and the interpreters who travel with the children as without them the holiday would not be possible.
A few members of the group will visit Belarus twice a year. Each member pays for their own journey and any expenses that they might incur along the way. They use this trip to once again meet with local interpreters (who are also teachers) Alla Pekun and Anna Kulinich. According to Mary “these ladies have been invaluable to the charity over the years as they see first hand who needs what and needs it most. They know the families and people in crisis”.
If you would like some more information or to make a donation please contact one of the following: Mary Murphy 052-9154345; Ann Crawford 0504-44682; Carmel Troy 087-6449674; Martin Taylor 0504-24371; Donal Kennedy 052-9156482. Donations can be made to Bank of Ireland, Thurles: Sort Code 90-44-64; Account No. 40890845.