President honours Chernobyl volunteers Carol and Fiona

Two Clonmel woman are among a group of dedicated supporters of the Chernobyl Childrens’ Project who have been honoured by President Mary McAleese for their 25 years of hard work, fundraising and care of children affected by the world’s worst nuclear disaster.

Two Clonmel woman are among a group of dedicated supporters of the Chernobyl Childrens’ Project who have been honoured by President Mary McAleese for their 25 years of hard work, fundraising and care of children affected by the world’s worst nuclear disaster.

Carol Morrissey, outreach leader of the Clonmel branch of Chernobyl Children’s Project International, was honoured for her work helping to bring children to Ireland for rest and recouperation, for almost 20 years, and fellow local woman Fiona Stanley had her work on a rebuilding project in Belarus recognised.

President Mary McAleese paid a very special ‘Chernobyl 25 - Ceremony of Hope’ tribute to 25 of the top volunteers who have dedicated themselves selflessly to improving the lives of so many across areas worst affected by the world’s worst nuclear disaster, at a ceremony at Farmleigh House, last Thursday.

The event was one of the key nationwide commemorations for the 25th Anniversary of the Chernobyl catastrophe, which fell yesterday, Tuesday, April 26.

The President was joined by Chernobyl Children International (CCI) CEO, Clonmel-born Adi Roche and CCI Board Member and former Minister of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs Liz O’Donnell, plus many others in honouring the representative group of CCI volunteers who have worked so tirelessly over the past 25 years.

CCI is the largest international NGO working in the Chernobyl region.

Clonmel woman Carol told The Nationalist that she is honoured to have been nominated as one of the 25 representatives of the charity. It came as a total surprise to her that she was to be a recipient, as the local group, with which she is a leader, had nominated other local people involved in the project. Carol, however, was nominated by a group of leaders from around Ireland, a testament to the respect in which she is held.

She was presented with her gold commemorative medal by President McAleese.

“I’m thrilled, absolutely delighted. I was surprised but it is a lovely honour to receive,” Carol said.

She described the day in Farmleigh as ‘beautiful.’ Following a rehearsal the ceremony started at 11am. Two children aged 13 and 18 who were adopted by Irish families spoke about their experiences and Mary Black sang ‘No Frontiers’ - a song which has become an anthem for the CCI volunteers.

“It was a great honour for the project, it means so much to us for someone like the President to acknowledge our work. It’s like a pat on the back,” Carol said.

Carol was one of the founder members of the CCI in Clonmel with Vera Hewitt and Sheila O’Keeffe, in 1992. The first group of children from the nuclear affected area came to the town in 1993, when 16 visited for rest and recuperation. Since then the group has never been less than 30, and some years as many as 65 children have come to Clonmel for the summer.

This year a group of 31 children will come to stay with 27 host families in the Clonmel area, from July 2. Carol praised the families for giving their time and said “the experience on both sides is absolutely brilliant,”

Fiona Stanley was nominated to be one of the 25 medal recipients by the Clonmel group. A member of the local committee Fiona has travelled to Belarus on four occassions to help with the rebuilding of an institution for adults there. As the chef’s assistant she has the important task of organising food and meals for all the workers on the site.

CCI volunteers have been central to CCI’s contribution of over €90 million in direct aid, medical care, respite, housing and education over the past quarter of a century in response to the disaster. They have also been involved in bringing some 21,000 children into Ireland on rest and recuperation trips.

Speaking at the Farmleigh event Adi Roche, CCI Chief Executive, said: “Today is our very special day to remember, commemorate and rededicate our hearts, minds and energies to the victims one of the world’s worst environmental disasters - the explosion at Chernobyl 25 years ago. But today is also a celebration of that powerful word ‘hope’, which is the most precious gift of all in the hearts of all our volunteers. Ireland you can well be proud of yourself.”

CCI is marking the 25th anniversary with a €25 per Special Anniversary Appeal. For donations, contact 0818 25 25 25