Limerick Rose Marie Hennessy pictured during her recent visit to the Vesnova Children’s Mental Asylum in Belarus
THE LIMERICK Rose for 2016 has returned from an “emotional” volunteering trip to Belarus with Chernobyl Children International.
Marie Hennessy travelled with a delegate of Roses including last year’s winner, Chicago Rose Maggie McEldowney.
The 18 Roses joined Adi Roche in Belarus, where they stayed in the Vesnova Children's Mental Asylum for the duration of the visit.
It is here that 170 of the young victims of the Chernobyl nuclear tragedy, which happened 30 years ago, have been institutionalised.
“It was both heartbreaking and heartwarming at the same time. It was heartbreaking in terms of the scenes and the stories of the children and how they end up in the orphanage,” said Ms Hennessy who hails from Rooskagh, Carrigkerry.
“It’s impossible to believe it unless you actually see it in reality, no amount of documentaries can show you the extent of it.
“I’ve found since coming back to the school, going into the classroom, going in to teach the kids, I’m still emotional. We don’t even realise the things we take for granted,” added the Desmond College teacher.
Many of the children are still being born with deformities and other illnesses, directly and indirectly linked to the radiation from the nuclear accident at Chernobyl.
The Roses spent their time working with the worst-affected children, giving them a level of one-to-one care and attention that they would not normally receive at the institution.
The orphanage was first brought to Irish attention in the 1990s by a convoy organised by the Adi Roche Chernobyl International charity.
“We will never cease to be inspired by the generosity and kindness of Rose Ambassadors who reach out and touch the hearts of the forgotten children in the Chernobyl regions,” said Ms Roche.
Most of the children sadly have lost their parents.