A hug means so much to Chernobyl children
A SIMPLE hug was all it took to send their frail bodies, ravaged by the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, into an ecstatic frenzy of happiness.
A total of 156 children from Chernobyl landed at Shannon Airport yesterday, greeted by their host Irish families who will effectively adopt them for a month of summer rest and recuperation.
However, the Chernobyl Children International charity – which is behind the initiative – has hit a funding crisis, due to the fallout from the recent charity sector pay and expenses scandal.
"Our funding has dropped by 60pc," said the charity's CEO, Adi Roche. "The intervention (of the charity) into mental asylums, and the quality of nursing that we supply, is all under threat. We are on the edge in terms of our funding."
The charity brings children affected by the fallout from the 1986 nuclear disaster to Ireland each year. They children – who will spend a month with families across 17 counties in Ireland – have come from a mental asylum in Vesnova, a remote district in the south-east of Belarus.
The children's smiles at Shannon Airport hid an awful truth. One Cork host mother described the living conditions at Vesnova as "very hard to comprehend". Mother of three, Sharon Lynch, from Macroom – who regularly visits the institution said: "They get three square meals a day, at a certain time. They are washed once a week, (that's) once a week. It doesn't matter if you are washed on a Tuesday and you have a dirty backside on a Tuesday evening, you are not washed again until the following Tuesday.
"To be honest, the building is immaculate (because of the Irish funding). But it is the children that are cleaning (it). It's the children that are mopping floors at ten o'clock at night. The mentality of the carers there (is a problem)."
Geraldine McGarry, from Meath, who will look after brothers Vasili (11) and Aliaksandr (12) added: "That's good. It was a lot worse. That's with the Irish aid going out with nappies and wipes."