Convoy for invisible enemy


CHERNOBYL children will be thanking their Irish champions this April, the eleventh anniversary of the world's worst nuclear disaster. The radioactive gases from the exploding reactor in the Ukraine have been long forgotten by some, but not by the plucky children of CBC Monkstown Junior School in Dublin, who plan to bring 10 children from the Ukraine to Monkstown this summer.

The Children of Chernobyl Project is organised by 30 sixth-class boys. Already - and for the next few weeks - the boys will be selling their business products and services, ranging from hot dogs and ice cream to penny sweets, to raise money for the project.

A convoy of 30 ambulances from all over Ireland will travel across Europe into the Chernobyl region, three of them leaving from Dublin.

Chernobyl's chief legacy for its children is thyroid cancer. Once the thyroid gland is removed, a child will live for less then 60 days without a drug called thyroxine. Each 50p raised by the Monkstown boys will provide a child with about one hundred days' supply of the life-saving drug.

The project was initiated by two 12-year-old boys James Gallen and Fergus Beirne, with the help of teacher Ken King. The boys wrote to both Ali Hewson and Adi Roche, and Roche came to their school to launch the project. She referred to the boys as "the gene pool, the hope for the future - not only of Ireland - but of the world".

Darren Mooney realised "how lucky I am not to have a deformity, a cancer, a tumour or anything else a Chernobyl child will suffer". Cormac O'Higgins voiced his concern of the amount of medical supplies needed for the Chernobyl children, while Andrew Boushell asked about transporting the "children who could be too sick to move."

Roche was delighted with a £1,000 cheque - money already collected by the Monkstown school. She said radiation was "the invisible enemy" and that the students were showing "compassion, care, love and responsibility to the planet and to human beings".

Ali Hewson told the boys of her 17-month-old godchild, Alexei, who was suffering from a tumour which could have been fatal but for the compassion of the boys. The tumour was successfully operated on by a specialist team at Dublin's Temple Street Hospital which meant that Alexei was able to celebrate her Russian Orthodox Christmas in her new home in Bandon, Co Cork.

The Chernobyl children have called the disaster their 20th century Calvary and created this poem for Ireland:

We are the children of Chernohyl

We want to live, to laugh,

To grow, to love

But we are doomed and we plead

With you Irish mothers and, fathers

Whose hearts are not of stone,

Will you help us

Will you hear?'