independent

Sunday 18 August 2019

CHERNOBYL GROUP'S BIG 'THANK YOU'

SAOIRSE MCGARRIGLE

WEXFORD Friends of Chernobyl Limited have this week expressed their sincere thanks to the people of Wexford for the warm welcome which has been extended to a visiting group of twenty children from Chernobyl.

Phil Breen, Chairperson of the Wexford Branch, explained that the Wexford group was the very first organisation to take children from the area where the catastrophic nuclear accident that occurred in 1986.

The committee has been involved in facilitating visits for children from Chernobyl for almost 28 years now. In total over 1000 children have visited Wexford during this period.

This year the group was accompanied by Dr. Elena Eshtokina who acted as an interpreter for the children and a coordinator for the project on the ground in Belarus.

She sang the praises of the Wexford people for their kindness and generosity in the way that they treat the children when they come to stay.

'Everything and everyone here is so nice', she said.

One of the children who has travelled with the group this year is nine-yearold Daria Suvovich. Daria has been staying with Phil for the duration of her stay.

Dr. Eshtokina and the other volunteers are astounded by the change in her complexion in such a short space of time. Her pallor has changed completely, they believe she appears far more healthy now having had the chance to escape the polluted atmosphere in Chernobyl for a brief period.

She noted that the work of the committee in arranging this three week visit requires months of forward planning and fundraising.

Many of the host families who open their doors to these children have been doing so for a number of years.

Ann Keeling, William Street, has welcomed Masha Glazko, now aged 14, into her home for the past six years. She describes the first year that she met Masha as being a very special occasion because at the time her youngest son, Emmet had just left home.

She says her 'empty nest syndrome' quickly diminished when she met Masha as she quickly became a part of the family.

'I have three grandchildren and they are always asking me, when is Masha coming back?'

The first year a child visits Wexford the organisation will fund her travel expenses. However, if the family requests that the same child returns in the subsequent years after that, the host family must cover their travel expenses.

In the years gone by they have been able to facilitate larger groups. However, this year a slightly smaller group of 20 children and teenagers travelled. The recession has made it more difficult for some families to take part in the programme.

Phil Breen also paid thanks to the countless businesses who played their part in putting on special events for the children free of charge.

The committee fundraise throughout the entire year and are actively seeking support for their weekly sale at the Drinagh Market.

Anyone who might wish to make a donation of second hand wares or offer their time to volunteer at the stand is welcome to do so.

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