Three trucks and one van, packed with the sort of home goods we Irish take for granted in our everyday lives, set off from Portlaw on Friday evening last, on a six-day journey that will take them all the way to Belarus.
The Munster Chernobyl Aid convoy (which in total features four articulated trucks and a van) was chaperoned out of Portlaw by members of the West Waterford Harley Davidson Club at the start of a 6,500-kilometre round trip.
A 10-strong party bade farewell to family and friends in Portlaw last Friday, bound for a former Soviet Republic which will endure the consequences of the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster for generations to come.
Michael ‘Noddy’ Jacob, Michael ‘Jakes’ O’Hara, Derek ‘Dixie’ Maher, John Hegarty, Eoin McGinnity, Paddy Coughlan, Tim Cullotty, Joanne Carroll, Declan O’Keeffe and Paraic Staunton are due to reach the town of Pruzhany this Thursday.
There, they will visit orphanages and distribute the clothes, shoes and homewear/ware that have been donated to them from people throughout the Waterford, South Kilkenny and greater Carrick-on-Suir areas.
“I’ve a ton and a half of nappies alone in my van,” Michael O’Hara told The Munster Express. “We’ve four full artics and a van load of items – clothes, shoes, furniture, children’s bikes and so on. And everything we’re bringing will bring a little bit of happiness into the lives of families who, on the whole, when compared to us in Waterford, have precious little.”
Michael Jacob, who has highlighted the abject poverty that he and his Munster Chernobyl Aid colleagues have witnessed with great clarity, thanked everyone who has weighed in behind their cause.
“Sometimes, seeing really is believing,” he said. “And when you see children who don’t even have shoe laces, never mind shoes, and when you go into orphanages with so little facilities, places that are basic in a way we can’t really get our heads around here, if seeing things like that wouldn’t make you want to help, sure you’d have to have a heart of stone. Imagine seeing your children or your grandchildren in those conditions?”
Michael added: “So to see people at home, here in Portlaw, around Waterford, across the Suir in Mooncoin and South Kilkenny, listening to what we’ve told them about – and I mean really listening – by helping out so brilliantly, by donating all manner of goods, by holding and supporting fundraisers over the last few months, well, it’s made what a lot of us have been doing in our spare time in the last few years feel very worthwhile.”
Michael O’Hara, echoing Michael Jacob’s comments, said helping to alleviate suffering in some small manner was better than doing nothing.
“Anyone that has been to Belarus will tell you the same thing: you’ve never seen anything like it until you’re there, in Pruzhany, in the Brest region. Like Noddy said, when you see a child’s eyes lighting up when they get a pair of shoes – a pair of shoes – then that makes travelling over 6,000 kilometres a trip worth making. And we’re very grateful to everyone who has helped us in any way over the last few months.” Travel safety, one and all.