Adi Roche has received a global honour known as the “Children’s Nobel Prize”.
The Cork woman (60) has been honoured with the World of Children Award by the US-based World of Children organisation for her work in transforming the lives of Chernobyl children.
Ms Roche, founder and voluntary CEO of the Chernobyl Children International charity, received the award last night at a ceremony in New York.
Ms Roche was one of six humanitarian campaigners – who were from countries including Sierra Leone, Ghana, Colombia Mexico, United States - to be honoured “for having dramatically improved the lives of children around the world”.
Sasha Charnanoh, who was airlifted from Belarus to Ireland in 1995 to receive life saving heart surgery in the Mercy Hospital in Cork and Crumlin Hospital in Dublin as a seven year old boy, was flown to New York to present Ms Roche with her award.
Sasha (28) said Ms Roche saved his life and the lives of three other children who were evacuated with him at the time.
“I was young, only six or seven, I was seriously ill…I remember being in the hospital with my friend Vitaly running after Adi and asking her to take us to Ireland that if she didn’t we would die. We watched her leave, we didn’t know she would come back for us, we didn’t know she was the woman who would save our lives”, Sasha said.
Adi Roche organised a plane funded for by Icelandic donors to fly into Belarus in 1995 and fly four critical ill children to Ireland for life saving cardiac surgery. Sasha was one of those children.
He said there is no doubt that Adi Roche saved his life and the lives of all the other children.
“I remember wearing an oxygen mask on the plane for the entire flight because I was so weak. I had no mamma and papa with me, I was terrified and alone but I eventually took refuge in the arms of Adi and slept on her lap for the rest of the journey taking comfort in the fact I was no longer alone, she has saved so many of us”, he added.
“Even though I was a child, I knew it was a desperate effort to save my life and the lives of the other three children”.
Chernobyl Children International (CCI) has raised over €100m for some of Chernobyl’s tens of thousands of children, whose lives have been saved, prolonged or improved through CCI’s efforts to address the long-term medical and social effects of the unprecedented nuclear catastrophe in Chernobyl in 1986.
In 2010 Adi Roche received the World of Children” Health Award for pioneering an Irish funded “Flying Doctor” missions to Ukraine where leading international cardiac surgeons have carried out lifesaving operations on 3,500 children with the condition known as “Chernobyl Heart”.
This year she received the organisation’s prestigious “Alumini Award” in special recognition of “the incredible impact she continues to have on the lives of thousands children of the Chernobyl region” – in a ceremony that re-united her for the first time with one of the child survivors of the 1986 Chernobyl disaster.