"The Day I met Ivan (Banni).
Walking into group 7 in Goradischie is always challenging. One half of the group is very active and the other is very quiet. They both need equal amounts of attention which is hard to do. We always bring them yoghurt and bring out one person at a time to have quality time with the volunteers and they can eat thier yoghurt and some sweets. There was a large group of volunteers this particular year so I decided to stay in the room with the less active and just sit with them. I walked in and saw a beautiful boy sitting on the bench looking apprehensive about the people who have just decended on his home. I sat beside him and just blew some bubbles. The others in the room laughed and I could see he was watching us. He was too nervous to go out so I asked our interpreter Iryna if I could feed him in the room. She told me his name was Ivan and he was such a beautiful child. I gave him his yoghurt and instead of eating it fast, he savoured it and took it slowly. If the truth be know I gave him two yoghurts and some marshmallows! The others in the room got plenty too. I sat down beside him again and blew some more bubbles. I looked at him and he seemed to have a look of contentment on his face with the odd smile. Little did I know until I watched the RTE documentary that he was Banni. He had every right to be angry, sad, upset and private but he opened up a bit. He brought the true meaning of "enjoy the little things " to life. A magnificent soul and forever loved and remembered by the Flynn family and everyone he has met."
"I don't know where to start.
#FindingBanni was heartfelt, heartbreaking, heartwarming. . .
Thank you to RTÉ for sharing this story. One that is unfortunately not uncommon.
I'm so proud to be a part of such a fantastic charity. Burren Chernobyl Project has worked tirelessly for over 20 years to make lives of those less fortunate in Belarus a little bit easier.
Seeing the footage of Banni in Ireland shook me to the core as I've never heard such joy out of him before, my heart broke as you walked through the door of Group 7 as I knew what you were about to see.
But Colm, please know. Banni is loved. Whenever the Irish visit we come with yogurts and sweets - toys too but let's face it, the sweets are always the favourite! We do get smiles from him. His interaction and love isn't as out going as it once was, but over time a little smile pops to the surface, and it makes everything worthwhile.
Here's some happy photos of a visit at Christmas."
"Every time we visited group 7 over the years we’d try and take them out of their main room in pairs for some quiet time, some sensory play and of course some yougurts and sweets. Irina would tell the volunteers each of the children’s stories. Quite a few in this group had travelled to Ireland in the past but Ivan’s story always stood out to me. She would tell us how they called him Banni in Ireland and how she still calls him that from time to time. She explained how the Flynn family changed his life. Before he went to Ireland he used to live in a cot. In Ireland he learned to walk and feed himself. These may seem like small things but they changed his quality of life. I recalled these memories while watching the documentary and was heartbroken. I saw life and joy in a boy I didn’t know was possible. It is without doubt that Banni would have lived a happier life in Ireland but I really want the Flynn family to take some comfort in the fact that they did help him. Getting him out of a cot and walking. Hopefully sharing Banni’s story will help raise awareness for all the other children like Banni in Belarus and in institutions worldwide."