Bridie finally makes the trip out East
A Tralee woman heavily involved in the 'Tralee District Chernobyl Children's Fund' has said that she was honoured to finally visit the areas that the charity is directly involved in helping.
Bridie Courtney, who lives in Cahermoneen, has been volunteering with the organisation for close to eight years now and has helped to house over 14 different children over that period. So, when the opportunity then arose for Bridie to visit the village of Kozhan in Southern Belarus herself, she jumped at the chance.
"Our committee was going over, six of us, and so when it was proposed at a meeting, I decided then that I'd like to head over. You'd hear so many stories about what conditions are like over there and so I just wanted to see it first hand for myself," said Bridie, talking to The Kerryman on Monday.
"It was a long journey over; it was a full day travelling, three days there, and another full day travelling back; we stayed with a number of different host families who showed us around the area and helped us meet up with former kids that we'd minded, along with their parents.
"They were so decent, very receptive and just lovely people; we visited the school there and we met a lot of the families in the school and then, to our surprise, up on the noticeboard in one of the classrooms, they [the children] had all these different photos from some of their trips over to Ireland," she continued.
Of the parents that she met on her trip, Bridie says that one in particular stands out amongst all the rest.
"One woman that I was talking to when we were over there, she said that her daughter hadn't had a cold in two years since returning from Ireland. Her health had greatly improved since her visit to Ireland," she said.
"Things such as this really highlight the importance of the yearly visits that the kids get. It's so important that they get the fresh air; where they come from, there's still a lot of radiation and so the fresh air and climate that we have here really helps them.
Of the conditions over there, Bridie said that temperatures sometimes dropped to -10 Degrees Centigrade and that it was very wet, damp and gloomy; while there she also was told first hand of the damage the explosion at Chernobyl caused.
"Where we were in Southern Belarus, while it's a bit away from the actual site of the explosion, the wind direction took it over the area and caused devastating effects," she said.
Bridie is hoping that her visit will help towards bringing in new host families here in Ireland, who will help to house children next summer.
"We are having an information evening in the Meadowlands Hotel on the night of Monday, November 27 at 7pm.
"Here, everybody will be able to get information on taking kids in next year, the fundraising efforts involved, how to give clothes donations etc; we'd love for as many people to come down on the night. It'a a great cause to be involved in," she finished."