Chernobyl eyes are smiling!
Children from the affected regions of Chernobyl arrive for Summer Rest & Recuperation.
Adi Roche welcomes children into Shannon Airport today.
The first flight carrying 300 children from the affected regions of Chernobyl arrives into Ireland today, Thursday 20 June as part of Chernobyl Children International (CCI) annual airlift of children.
The children who come from impoverished backgrounds, institutions and foster homes in the heart of the contaminated Chernobyl zone will be hosted by Irish families throughout 11 counties in Ireland as part of CCI’s Summer Rest & Recuperation Programme. Despite these challenging times, Irish volunteer host families continue to raise funds locally throughout Ireland to support the children and ensure they benefit from a cleaner Irish environment.
Adi Roche, CEO, CCI, said, ‘Despite the difficult economic circumstances many families find themselves in Ireland, our volunteers have opened their hearts and their homes this summer to children who so desperately need our help. While the Chernobyl accident happened over a quarter of a century ago the consequences last forever. My heartfelt gratitude to the volunteers who offer hope to live to the children who the world has largely forgotten.’
The arrival of this summer’s children brings the total number of children who have benefited under the scheme to over 22,500 children since the aftermath of the Chernobyl disaster in 1986.
(1) Brothers Alexei and Vasily
Among the children are brothers Alexei and Vasily who have been waiting excitedly to board the flight from Minsk to Shannon for many months. These young teenagers were abandoned at birth and live in a remote institution, Vesnova, in the South East of Belarus. Vesnova is home to 170 other children and young adults, many who have been confined to institutional care since they were babies.
Alexei is wheelchair-bound and depends on round-the-clock medical care, provided by CCI’s Medical Care Programme. Alexei will make the 3,000 mile journey to meet his host family, Mike, Susan and their children Ricky and Grace in Cork. Vasily will join his host family in Kilkenny who are waiting anxiously for him to arrive.
Another little boy Igor, from Vesnova is 12 years old but looks not much older than a little 2 year old toddler. Little Igor suffers from a multiple congenital birth defects and deformities and was cruelly abandoned to the Institution since birth. His only lifeline is his Irish host family, the Coxes from Westport. Marie Cox, her husband Dermot and four boys, who opened their hearts and their home to Igor over 4 years ago. Although Igor can’t talk or walk and is confined to a wheelchair, he is an expert communicator and has become a well-known face around the town of Westport every summer!
Other boys and girls from Vesnova will join their families for what will be a holiday of a lifetime and a gift to them from the people of Ireland. Volunteer host families up and down the country give these children an unforgettable summer holiday, and at the same time they gain respite from the high levels of radiation to which they continue to be exposed as a result of the Chernobyl explosion. The summer is a particularly dangerous time in the Chernobyl regions as the intense heat contributes to the redistribution of radioactive materials.