THE East Clare Chernobyl Project is holding an open night for families interested in hosting a child from Chernobyl over the summer and is inviting people across East Clare to come along to find out more about the programme.
Mary Moloney, from Quin, has been involved in the project for the past 14 years and has organised the open evening at the Community Hall in Quin next Monday night at 7.30pm.
The information evening aims to address and answer any concerns people might have and will explain how the process works.
Mary highly recommends getting involved in the project and asks people not to be put off the programme due to the economic downturn.
“I’ve been involved in it for the last 14 years. East Clare Chernobyl was set up in about 1997 and the whole idea is to take children away from the high radiation in Chernobyl. In the summer time out there, the radiation is really quite intense. They feel if they get a break away from that for a month, it could add at least two years onto their life expectancy.
“Years ago we would have had way bigger groups of children coming in but over the years with the recession, families have felt it’s not easy to take an extra child in.
“What we’re trying to highlight in this open evening is we don’t want you to go and spend a fortune. The whole idea is that they are here to get the fresh air, they are here with your family and they get the good of being part of the family.
“Of course, a child might come over and they might be very badly clad and you might have to buy a few items. There were times when people went way overboard and felt they had to do that every year and then felt they couldn’t take a child. That was getting away from what we’d like to happen. The child is part of your family and you are making them feel welcome,” she said.
Mary said there is a feel-good element to it and many families, including her own, develop a special bond with the children they host.
“I have taken children every year. You really get as much good out of it as they do. Over the years, I’ve had a good relationship with the children. I’ve had four different girls, two sisters from one family and two from another and myself and my husband have been over there to visit them. We even went out there three years ago for the older girl’s wedding, so I really regard them as my own family,” she said.
Another thing Mary says families should not be put off by is the language barrier.
“It’s not as big an issue anymore. Nowadays, it’s even less of an issue because the children either learn English or German in school, so they would have basic words and we have different sheets we give to families to help them along. Of course, now the big thing is they can go on the computer and say what they want to say in Russian and it comes out in English,” she said.
The East Clare Chernobyl Project hosts children from the ages of eight to 16 and host families must fill out garda vetting forms, as well as being cleared by the HSE. The children are generally hosted from around the last week in June or the first week in July for one month.
Mary said there are times when two families might take responsibility for one child over the period of the month if work commitments create difficulties but in all cases this only occurs with the agreement of the visiting child.
Anyone interested in learning more about the project or the information evening can contact Mary after 5pm on 087 7754054.