The Greater Chernobyl Cause and its work has featured prominently in both regional, national and international publications over recent years.
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RTE’s popular Nationwide television series is devoting an entire episode to the work of a Cork-based international charity, The Greater Chernobyl Cause.
On it, founder Fiona Corcoran relates how she, like the rest of the world, looked on in horror in April 1986 at the television reports of the world’s worst nuclear accident, at Chernobyl.
But it wasn’t until 1995, when she read a newspaper article about four children from the affected area of Belarus who were being cared for at the Mercy Hospital in Cork, that she became directly involved.
It was the death of one of them – little Evgenia Nesterenko – that galvanised Fiona to do more or, as she says, “turned my life around.”
The charity she founded, The Greater Chernobyl Cause has been working ever since and helping to transform the desperate lives of children suffering not only from chronic health problems, but also from neglect and abandonment, compounded by a health and education infrastructure which simply cannot cope.
The programme tells the story of how the charity’s mission gradually expanded and how it now brings hope and practical help to people surviving in the most wretched of circumstances in three parts of the former Soviet Union – in Kazakhstan, Ukraine and Russia.
The camera joins Fiona on a recent visit to Ukraine’s capital, Kiev where an estimated 30,000 children live on the streets – or under the streets more like it, as many of them exist in tunnels and drains, their lives blighted by hunger, substance abuse, begging and prostitution.
The Cork-based charity is working in partnership with a local charity, Our Father’s House, which brings food and emergency aid to the streets and also provides home and education for up to 70 children.
One of the most astonishing parts of the programme is its revelation that during the Soviet era, the Kremlin used its own population in Kazakhstan to test the effects of nuclear weapons. The programme reports that the USSR carried out 456 nuclear tests over four decades in the east of Kazakhstan, and carries a brief recent interview with one local man who describes the mushroom cloud of a nuclear explosion near his village in 1968.
The cameras follow Fiona on a visit to the city of Semey in that region, where the Cork-based charity is making a major contribution to efforts to cope withthe long-term effects of radiation and of economic deprivation.
In the programme we also meet volunteers, donors and one couple who were so moved by the plight of abandoned children that they adopted one of them. And alongside the often terrible conditions, we also see the smiles of children and old people alike whose lives have been enriched by the help from the people of Ireland – all due to the work of Fiona Corcoran.