‘Strictly Come Dancing’ returns to team up with Chernobyl Children’s Project

Ruth Quinn Damian Byrne, Breda Delahunty, Fiona Stanley, Seamus Lahart
The dust has barely been cleaned from the heels of the dancers but Clonmel’s Strictly Come Dancing team are ready to return by popular acclaim. Having already raised over €25,000 in the last two years for the Barretstown Foundation and for the Alzheimer Association of Ireland, the group are now working with the local branch of the Chernobyl Children’s project.

The dust has barely been cleaned from the heels of the dancers but Clonmel’s Strictly Come Dancing team are ready to return by popular acclaim. Having already raised over €25,000 in the last two years for the Barretstown Foundation and for the Alzheimer Association of Ireland, the group are now working with the local branch of the Chernobyl Children’s project.

Speaking at the launch of this year’s project in Clonmel Rugby Club, Strictly co-ordinator, Seamus Lehart said that the group had been overwhelmed and humbled by the amount of charities who had hoped to associate themselves with the project. However, the local association of the Chernobyl Children’s project won the day.

Like all charities, they have seen a downturn in income in recent years. Recently, they have decided to change the focus of their operations. Previously, they brought children from Belarus to Clonmel for a holiday with a host family. This year they are focussing their attentions on the Vesnova project. The Vesnova Children’s Mental Asylum is situated in rural sourthern Belarus.  It is home to 160 children ranging in ages from 4 to 16, who have a wide range of learning and physical disabilities. When the project first visited the institution in early 2002 the children were living in substandard, unhygenic conditions where they were not receiving a proper level of care -- in fact, Vesnova had some of the worst conditions the project leaders had ever seen. Carol Morrisey of the local branch said, “CCPI Irish volunteers have created a new high dependency unit and the work has been carried out throughout the building to improve sleeping and washroom facilities.  We have made a dramatic improvement in sanitation, and the quality of life continues to improve for these children every day.”

”Perhaps most importantly, CCPI has trained and pays three nursing staff who work side by side with the current staff.  A team of professionals travels regularly from Ireland to supervise their work and assess current and future needs.  We hope to supplement the nursing staff with other health professionals to allow for a more comprehensive level of care for the children.”  he said.

Seamus said the Strictly Come Dancing team were delighted to be associated with the Chernobyl Children’s Project which had carried out so much tremendous work in the Clonmel area over a long number of years .

“Clonmel has always had a strong association with the Chernobyl Children’s Project from the very beginning and it has had a major impact on the community.The response to our fundraising over the years has been fantastic and this year the local branch of the Chernobyl Children’s Project will be the beneficiary,” he said.

Training will start in earnest in May in dance hall around the county.As usual there are plent of female volunteers expected to take part but more males are required.Any would be male dancers can contact 086/8493787.

Huge crowds have flocked to the Minella each autumn to enjoy the high standard of dancing and pageantry, the high production values and great fun. Watch this space for more details to follow on this year’s project.