Kazakhstan was part of the old Soviet Union. It lies in Central Asia, four thousand miles from Ireland and the country is as large as the whole of Western Europe. It shares a border with Russia in the North, stretches to the Caspian Sea in the west and to China and Mongolia in the east
Semipalitinsk Hospice Kazakhstan - Appeal for Help
In the autumn of 2008 Fiona Corcoran from the Irish charity The Greater Chernobyl Cause first visited this hospice for the elderly in Semipalatinsk, an industrial city in north east Kazakhstan.
She was so shocked by the desperate plight of the residents and the squalor inside the dilapidated building that she decided to act immediately.
Now, two years on and thanks to generous donations and the charity's hard work, there have been some major improvements to diet, medical care and hygiene.
But best of all is the charity's plan to build an entirely new hospice in the grounds of the city's general hospital.
This hospital though has problems of its own. One of the most urgent is the repair of the CAT scanner, out of action since June 2010. It would normally be used by 1500 cases a year, 500 of them very serious.
The Greater Chernobyl Cause wants to help get this scanner working again by supplying vital components.
Jeremy Irons Appeal
Many of the 13 million who live in this vast country are poor and deprived of the services that we take for granted in the west. Sadly, under funded and ill equipped orphanages are still all too common. 17,000 orphans are confined to grim institutions. The majority have been abandoned by parents, unable - either through poverty or neglect - to look after their needs.
Actor Jeremy Irons is one of our greatest supporters and is appealing for your help.
Znamenka and Berik
Sadly, some of the children are victims of a Soviet legacy that is continuing to poison the land and its people. For it was in East Kazakhstan that one third of the world’s nuclear tests took place in total secrecy. There were as many as 500 explosions in 40 years and some mothers exposed to radiation fallout wonder about the long term effects for their families. Take a look at the situation in one village close to the test site.
The Director of the charity, Fiona Corcoran, was appalled at the thought that the Soviets had used their own people as ‘human guinea pigs’. Walking in the area of the test site, she found that radiation levels were still 400 times above normal.
This tragedy has compelled her into trying to help Kazak children of all backgrounds and disabilities condemned to life in filthy and dilapidated state institutions where staff are given few resources and rely heavily on outside help from wherever it comes. Take a look at life inside an orphanage transformed by the only Irish charity working in this most difficult country.
If life is now looking brighter for the youngest orphans, the way the state operates means that those charities struggling to make a difference have been faced with even greater challenges. As you will see from this next video clip, the Greater Chernobyl Cause has been prepared to meet these face on.
If YOU would like to help the Greater Chernobyl Cause to continue its outstanding work in Kazakhstan then visit the How you can help page here.