Irish volunteer killed in fall on charity trip

Adelina Campos

AN IRISH dad who was volunteering in Belarus has died tragically following a fall in the Eastern European country.

Jonathan Kennedy was working with charity Chernobyl Children's Project International near the Belarusian capital of Minsk when the accident occurred.

The father-of-one was due to travel home last Sunday but he passed away in Saltanovka the previous day.

Chief executive of Chernobyl Children International, Adi Roche, paid tribute to the altruistic plumber, who is originally from Maharees near Castlegregory in Co. Kerry.

"We are deeply saddened and shocked by the tragic and sudden passing of one of our volunteers Jonathan Kennedy," Ms Roche said.

"Our thoughts and prayers are first and foremost with Jonathan's wife Patricia and their young son Cathal.

"The loss of a loved one is always great but it is simply indescribable when it involves a person as special as Jonathan.

"He was truly one of life's unsung heroes, a young man who had an incredible sense of giving.

"Our sadness at his passing, while unspeakable, bears no resemblance to the loss currently being felt by his wife and family."

Chernobyl Children's Project International confirmed that it was currently providing consular assistance to the family.

"We are making every effort possible to support Jonathan's family at this most tragic of times.

"We are working with both the Department of Foreign Affairs and the Belarusian authorities to facilitate the repatriation of Jonathan's remains as soon as possible," Ms Roche added.

Jonathan was one of 25 volunteers who flew to Belarus on September 13 to finish a building project at the Soltanovka asylum that was started three years ago.

According to the charity, Soltanovka Adult Mental Asylum is one of the places where teenagers with mental or physical disability go to when they turn 18.

Volunteers have helped restore the building since 2008 to provide a modicum of comfort to its residents by replacing old drafty windows, renovating showers and toilets, and completing a new bright unit to replace one that was rundown.

"Chernobyl Children International staff and volunteers have met a number of our young friends in this dismal and dilapidated building that becomes the final home for many mentally disabled children who grow up," the organisation explained.

"While we continue to focus our efforts on developing alternatives to institutionalisation and ways to integrate disabled young adults into the community, we cannot turn our backs on the almost 200 disabled adults of all ages who live in Soltanovka," the spokesman added.