Chernobyl kid’s trips to Ireland can add two years to their lives

By Aideen O'Flaherty

ANGELINA Razhkova is one of 150 children and young people from Chernobyl who will be spending July with host families in Ireland, offering a reprieve from the contaminated air in Belarus and also a break from their daily routine in state-run orphanages.

Sixteen-year-old Angelina has been diagnosed with cerebral palsy, is non-verbal and has mobility issues, and is taking part in a Rest and Recuperation Programme run by Adi Roche’s Chernobyl Children International (CCI) charity.

Sine and Anglina 15

Síne and Angelina in Drimnagh

The teenager lives in the Vesnova Institute orphanage in Belarus alongside 170 children, some of whom are the third generation to have been affected by the Chernobyl disaster that occurred in 1986.

Adi Roche’s charity’s Rest and Recuperation Programme has brought more than 25,000 children and young people to Ireland since 1991, and now Angelina is among their number, staying with Síne Gilchriest in Drimnagh this month where she is receiving one-to-one attention and care.

Explaining how she got involved with the programme, Síne told The Echo: “My sister Triona Rooney was the group leader of CCI’s Dublin Outreach Group.

“Slowly I got involved, helping out with my sister’s fundraising, and she had been over volunteering [at the orphanages] and then I went over in March 2014, and I’ve been going over twice a year since then.”

Síne has had ten different children from Chernobyl come to stay with her for respite breaks, which typically take place for two weeks over the Christmas period, and for the month of July in the summer.

A lot of challenges in their lives

“Although the children have a lot of challenges in their lives, they overcome them,” Síne explained. “Some might have difficulty walking but they try their best to take a few more steps every day.

“They’re an infectious group of people and they love one-to-one interaction – there’s 170 kids in the orphanage, so they don’t get a lot of one-to-one interaction, so being here gives them a bit of rest and TLC.”

Angelina, who was also in Ireland for two weeks during Christmas, has been taking delight in drawing and colouring in pictures, and Síne added that the teenager has already made progress since her arrival, and can now tie her shoelaces.

“It’s really special to know that you can make a difference in someone’s life in a small way,” said Síne. “Before I had Angelina she rarely left the institution, but now she has been in a car, in a cinema and has been bowling too – it’s a lot of change.

“She couldn’t be happier, and she will go back with loads of happy memories.”

According to CCI, four weeks in Ireland can add two years to the life expectancy of children from Chernobyl-affected regions, as a result of the break from the toxic environment and radiation in their hometowns.

For further information or to make a donation to help bring more children to Ireland visit www.chernobyl-international.com or call 021 455 877.

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