Saturday was an opportunity to meet some of the people, put faces to the names and connect with those that we have heard about over the last thirty years. Stories from the the very beginning when children came to North Clare to breathe in the fresh air and spend time with local families. John Morgan and Lisa O'Connor shared fond memories of this time - the beginnings of Burren Chernobyl Project back in 1993.
For many years Roche Ireland in Clarecastle provided huge support both financially and in the form of volunteers. Employees travelled to Belarus to volunteer in Gorodishche, and most famously sent several teams of builders to build/repair/renovate several projects in Belarus. Fergus Slattery, Nicky Moloney and Timmy Healy shared great memories of these busy trips that comprised of long days and hard work but also great laughs and connection led by our Yuri!
John and Therese Smyth spoke about the funding and building of an independent house in Yazovki adult asylum which was a dream and brain child of their daughter Edel. Therese also spoiled us with eclairs and cake on the night!
Jacinta and Collie shared tales of how their charity Chernobyl Aid North met BCP on a plane and so began a long standing friendship of collaboration and support for each others projects, including another independent living house in Yazovki. The two buildings stand side by side and are home to many happy residents.
Several volunteers reminisced about their time in Gorodishche and Cherven orphanages, the changes they've seen over the years and the long lasting friendships and connections with both the children and the staff.
Locally we have had incredible support in fundraising over the years. Bernard Lucas and Cormac Coyne spoke about some of the treks they've completed including the Arctic Circle and Kilimanjaro and hopefully more adventures in the future. Pat Conway shared some words on his 50 years of swimming for charity and how his family will continue to fly the flag or swim the sea as it were!
Joe Shannon is always on hand to load the trucks and is always one of the last to come out - we sometimes think he'll get stuck in there! Joe expressed his gratitude in hearing the stories from all the other aspects of BCP and appreciated seeing how all the strands work hand in hand - a sentiment shared by many.
We lost two outstanding ladies this year, two pillars of love and dedication. Teresa Flynn and Pat O'Doherty were two incredibly strong women who both gave selflessly for the children. Audrey spoke of the love her mother Teresa had for Sergey and how little Sergey brought about so much change himself. Tríona shared some memories of her mother Pat and of her own experience in Belarus.
Unfortunately not everyone could be there and we had well wishes from volunteers across the country and abroad. We also had some video messages from Belarus, everyone was heartened to see and hear from Lena, Yuri, Tamara and Irina - thank you Don and Jo for the videos!
We couldn't let the evening pass without mentioning a few people in particular for their commitment over the years. Firstly, to Br. Liam for his unwavering commitment to Burren Chernobyl Project, before the committee got to say anything there were already words of thanks from many of the attendees. Br. Liam was presented with a gift and plaque inscribed with words of gratitude from the children. Br. Ned, Helen O'Meara, Mary Cosgrove and Susanne were all presented with gifts of appreciation for their long standing commitment to Burren Chernobyl Project over the years.
We had Darragh from Scariff Bay Community Radio there on the night interviewing a few people about their part in the Burren Chernobyl Project journey. We look forward to hearing the finished product Darragh!
Our night of celebrating, sharing and connecting couldn't have happened without a few elves working in the background - a big thank you to the committee for all their hard work. Thank you to John O Neill for taking photos on the night. Finally a huge thank you to Michael McCarthy, family and all the staff at the Falls Hotel for being so welcoming and generous on the night. It was the perfect venue for our warm gathering and they ensured everything ran smoothly.
Of course many more stories were shared and connections made on the night. A final thank you to all who travelled to be with us, both local and from all corners of Ireland. It really was a very special evening and we're grateful to you all for making it so. To those who couldn't make it, please god we'll see you for the 40th!
Go raibh míle maith agaibh go léir.