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Smiles All-Round As Connacht Squad Visit Sunflower Chernobyl Camp

Smiles All-Round As Connacht Squad Visit Sunflower Chernobyl Camp

The Connacht Rugby squad paid a visit to the Sunflower Chernobyl Summer Camp in Esker recently to meet and play games with some of the children who have visited the facility.

Connacht fitness advisor Des Ryan had set up a series of games for the children to interact with the players in, which proved to be an overwhelming success. Volleyball, soccer and an obstacle course were a few of the activities that both sets of players took part in, before a soccer final between the Summer Camp kids and the Connacht players resulted in a 5-2 victory for the kids.

The Sunflower Chernobyl Appeal has been operating in a voluntary capacity for over 10 years now, receiving no state funding and relying solely on voluntary donations to keep their projects alive. This is the second year of the ‘Summer Camp’ for children, who until last year were housed in the local community.

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The children number 103 in total, 60 of whom are staying at Esker Monastery in Athenry in County Galway, along with several carers for special needs children, doctors, nurses and translators from Belarus, who have also donated their time.

Chairman for the Sunflower Chernobyl Appeal Pat Dillon is delighted with the response the charity has received from members of the community as well as the countless businesses from the Galway area who have donated their services to help make this charity a success.

“This operation wouldn’t be able to exist without the help of volunteers. The amount of people like the Connacht Rugby team, who have done something for the children, especially when the weather was so bad, is phenomenal and we’re all grateful to them for their support.

“The volunteers in the local community in Esker, who cater for all 103 children, feed all of them, clean and look after their needs for a month, is a huge gesture on behalf of those people, who are so giving of their time. It’s overwhelming that people have been so nice to them. Any help we’ve looked for, people have been very forthcoming right across the board,” Dillon said.

“It’s impossible to name all the companies who’ve contributed. I’d like to thank the Redemptorist Order of Monks here at Esker Youth Village for donating use of their facility. Our other main sponsors would have been Bus Eireann, Farrell Transport in Athenry, Barrett Transport, Ballinasloe swimming pool, Raheen Woods Hotel, the Fire Service and Gardai who had events organised for the kids as well as all the businesses in Athenry and the Galway area who helped out generously.

“All the hospitals in Galway and all the dentists donated treatment as well as GPs in the area. The Atlantic prosthetic clinic who are currently fitting one of the children with legs, the list is endless.”

The charity does not end there. Over the years it has been successful in helping several communities in Belarus which have been heavily affected by the Chernobyl disaster.

“We’re currently working in eight institutions and half way houses where kids can go while deciding whether it would be best to put them in an orphanage permanently or find a family for them. We’re currently hoping to have another day care centre built in Minsk, which will help to take them out of the orphanage and teach them independent living.

“There are many families who can’t cope and therefore leave their kids in the orphanages. The idea of a day care centre is to allow parents to work and pick them up after work, so as to reduce the numbers that are in the orphanages,” he added.

The charity is currently focusing on a number of projects including another day care centre as well as some individual projects.

“We’re trying to raise finances for cancer drugs as well as legs for one child in particular which will cost €10,000. We’re also trying to get a new roof fitted to a day care centre in a badly contaminated area called Mikasheichi. It’s important that we complete that project before the bad weather sets in, so every donation is welcome.”

For further information on the Sunflower Chernobyl Appeal, please visit www.chernobylsunflowers.ie or contact Pat Dillon directly on tel: 087-4172307.