REIGNING Limerick Rose, Marie Hennessy is this week flying out to Belarus with Adi Roche’s Chernobyl Children International, to volunteer in a children’s asylum.
Marie will travel to a remote area of Belarus to help care for over 170 children who are residents of Vesnova Children’s Mental Asylum. The secondary school teacher and Newcastle West native will be travelling with a group of 21 volunteers from the Rose of Tralee festival including Maggie McEldowney, the 2016 Rose of Tralee.
The group, which includes nurses, care workers and teachers will spend a week in the Children’s Mental Asylum at Vesnova about 175 kilometres from Chernobyl. The children they will be working with range in age from 4 to 18 years; most have lost their parents; others have been abandoned by families who could no longer care for them, all of them suffer from severe illnesses and disabilities and require a high level of medical and nursing care.
The orphanage, which is officially designated as a Children’s Mental Asylum, was discovered in the 1990s by an Irish aid convoy taking humanitarian aid to victims of the Chernobyl disaster. The convoy organised by the Adi Roche Chernobyl International charity was one of the first to be allowed to enter the area after the fall of the then Communist regime, which had hidden hundreds of orphanages from the outside world.
This will mark the sixth year of partnership between the Rose of Tralee and Chernobyl Children International and previous Roses have travelled out on up to three trips per year since 2011.
The volunteer group will carry out day-to-day activities in the institution including feeding and playing with the children along with bringing fun and laughter into their lives. During her volunteer experience, Marie hopes to put her teaching skills and experience to good use in helping the children in a caring, fun environment.
by Alan Jacques