Aisling’s ‘emotional’ visit to Chernobyl

Roses, escorts travel to scene of disasterRoscommon Rose, Aisling McNeill has just returned from a volunteering trip to Belarus with Adi Roche and Chernobyl Children International. The 23-year-old teacher from Roscommon town was accompanied by 17 of her fellow roses, the 2016 Rose of Tralee Maggie McEldowny and three Rose Escorts including Barry McGuire from Ballaghaderreen.

The roses and escorts stayed in the Vesnova Children’s Mental Asylum where 170 of the young victims of the Chernobyl nuclear tragedy that happened 30 years ago have been housed. Many of the children are still being born with horrific deformities and other illnesses directly or indirectly linked to the radiation from the nuclear accident.

Aisling described her trip to the Roscommon People earlier this week: “It was an emotional experience and we saw some difficult things. Although we also saw some very inspiring things and there were a lot of positives. Adi Roche spoke to us on one of the evenings and said ‘Where there’s hope, there is life’,” she said.

Aisling said that one of the visiting group’s main aims was to brighten up the children’s lives and to make them smile, even if only for a while. She revealed that the children had had a huge effect on the roses and escorts. “They taught us about love in the way they were so receptive to us. It opens your eyes and helps you appreciate how lucky we are,” she said.

The Roscommon Rose wished to thank the people of Roscommon for their generous contributions to such a worthy cause and confirmed that up to €3,000 had been raised in the county. Aisling added that €1,400 had been donated by Scoil Mhuire in Roscommon town following a bake sale. She also said that a local group had knitted blankets, which were given to the children along with medical supplies.

Adi Roche, voluntary CEO of Chernobyl Children said: “This is the fifth year that the Rose of Tralee Festival have sent a delegation of volunteers over to Belarus and they bring such an energy and hearts full of love to the unfortunate children of Vesnova. They are such wonderful ambassadors for their families, their communities and to the Rose of Tralee Festival also.”