THE Friends of Chernobyl Children Tullamore marked the 25th anniversary of the Chernobyl disaster on Friday night last with a celebration of the commitment of their past and present host families.
The event took place in the Tullamore Court Hotel where the current group of twenty Chernobyl children with their host families were joined by past host families and supporters.
The committee had an interesting poster and photo exhibition on display outlining the history of the tragic event, village life in the regions affected by the disaster and numerous photos of Chernobyl children enjoying their recuperation holidays in Tullamore and surrounding areas down through the years. They also put together a PowerPoint presentation and outlined to the audience the history of the accident and also explained the achievements of the project in Tullamore.
The project commenced under the auspices of The Knights of Columbanus in 1994 in co-operation with The Kells Committee for the Care of Chernobyl Children, bringing over 250 children from Belarus to Ireland by 1999. In 2000 the committee switched focus to Ukraine with the co-operation of Nataliya Preobrazhenska in Kiev. In 2005 the Knights handed over control of the project to members of the committee and host family group. Continuing to co-operate with Kells over 350 Ukrainian children have enjoyed recuperation holidays in Ireland while host families have funded almost 100 return trips for some children.
In 2010 Nataliya Preobrazhenska put the project in direct contact with Laryssa Pravdiva in Ivankiv. Visiting children are now primarily from the Ivankiv region. This region is adjacent to the Chernobyl exclusion zone and just 30 kilometres from Chernobyl NPP.
The audience also got to see video clips from Ukraine, produced to coincide with the 25th anniversary in April this year. Vitaliya Gavrylenko is the interpreter accompanying the children to Tullamore and she explained the content of the videos. Vitaliya also made two short videos of interviews with two boys who had visited Tullamore during the past twelve years which the audience found very interesting.
Vitaliya delivered a report on how the disaster continues to impact the lives of people in her region where 92% of the population have official victim of Chernobyl status and the death rate in the district is higher than the regional average while the birth rate is lower. Employment opportunities are difficult to find in a region where it is not possible to produce agriculture crops for commercial reasons in an area that previously sold produce all over Ukraine. Professionals, engineers, agronomists, etc now seek employment elsewhere while the only working enterprise in Ivankiv is the local bakery.
The committee thanked all supporters of the project through the years, with a special word of thanks to all past and present host families. The Chairman of the Committee Padraig Mooney explained that the event was a celebration of the efforts of host families since 1994 without whom the project could not continue. Mr Mooney appealed for everybody’s continued support and the support of the wider community for new host families and for fundraising efforts.
If you would like to become a future host parent or would like to support the group please phone Máire, 0872974273 or Alma, 0863857374 after 6pm.