A convoy of eight trucks and two vans will depart from Waterford and South Kilkenny on Good Friday next, April 18th representing Munster Chernobyl Aid.
The 2014 Fundraiser was officially launched at the Royal Oak Bar on October 20th by Kilkenny County Council Chair Pat Dunphy, Cllr Cora Long and Waterford Deputy Paudie Coffey, which represents “the sort of cross-community co-operation we could do with a bit more off,” said the Fine Gael TD.
In the late 1990s, well-known local performer Michael ‘Noddy’ Jacob, who will travel to Chernobyl next Easter as one of the convoy drivers, became involved in the charity.
And Michael’s wish to do his bit to assist deprived families in Belarus represents one of the most worthwhile ventures he’s ever undertaken.
“The first time I went to Shannon Airport, to see the children coming in from the Chernobyl area, well nothing on Earth could prepare me for what I saw. The tears just started rolling down my face, as my wife Mairéad will tell you. These children had nothing, absolutely nothing.
“Soon after that, we started taking out aid there every year, initially travelling to an orphanage in a place called Grozovo in Belarus, but once we felt we’d done what we could to help bring that orphanage up to scratch, we widened out net a little and we began to see what we could do for other communities out there.
“So John Hegarty and I visited some mental hospitals and other facilities, the most basic you could imagine mind you, and our jaws dropped; you just couldn’t believe the level of squalor we saw. It was literally unbelievable.
“And it was while we there that we met Tim Culloty (of Munster Chernobyl Aid) on the road out there, and Tim, who runs the Ballyconway Transport company, funded our insurance and lorries and everything for one year when we had absolutely nothing, which was an incredible gesture, and he’s a man I’m proud to call my friend now. ”
Two of the convoy trucks which depart from Waterford and Mooncoin each year en route to Belarus, with the diesel bill for both vehicles coming in a total of €6,000, so the general public is being asked to assist once more in the fundraising effort.
“We’ve had unbelievable support down through the years, and I know we’ll get massive support again this year from both sides of the Suir,” said Michael.
“Whatever people can contribute, we’re eternally grateful for. I know we’re going through tough times at home, but by God, when you see what you see in Belarus, you’re talking about a totally different level of poverty.
“I know we’ll fly over what we need to raise, which in total will come to about €20,000, and we’ll proudly fly the flags of both Waterford and Kilkenny when we get there.
“We’ll be having a few social nights, a swim at Christmas, and a few other functions to help raise the funds we’ll need to have in the bank before we head off on Good Friday next year. But it’s important to let the public know how much we appreciate their ongoing support. The difference ye’re helping to make to the lives of impoverished people a long long way from home is something everyone involved deserves to be proud of.”
Said Cllr Pat Dunphy: “This is a fantastic initiative, drawing such support from so many different parishes on both sides of the Suir. The enthusiasm which Michael has for this project makes it something you’d just naturally want to support and wish all the best for. So I’d appeal to everyone in a position to help out to get behind this marvellous voluntary efforts.”
Added Cllr Cora Long: “Munster Chernobyl Aid is a wonderful endeavour, and to think that people from this area and across the boundary in Waterford are helping sick children live for 10 to 20 years longer shows how brilliant an initiative this is, and it deserves our support.”