Roche honoured for Chernobyl work


Ms Adi Roche became the first foreigner to receive Belarus's highest national honour for her work with the charity she founded, the Chernobyl Children's Project.

The Frantsysk Skrayna Order of Belarus was formally bestowed on Ms Roche by the Belarussian ambassador to Ireland and Britain, Mr Uladzimir Shehasny, at the National Concert Hall in Dublin last night.

Ms Roche said the award should bring immediate, practical benefits to the charity, which next month will send another convoy of aid, worth up to ú2 million, to Belarus, western Russia and Ukraine. "It will give us greater weight when we're knocking at the door of multinationals and other agencies looking for support," she said. It might also help cut through the red tape which has delayed aid convoys at the Belarussian border in the past, she added.

Mr Shehasny, who performed the ceremony at the start of a concert by the Belarus Army Central Band, said the project's long-term programmes were now serving as models for other development schemes in his country.

Since its foundation in 1991, the Chernobyl Children's Project has sent ú9.5 million of medical and humanitarian aid to areas affected by the nuclear disaster of 1986. This is in addition to a number of development projects and the annual recuperative holidays in Ireland for children from the region, organised by the charity.

Ms Roche said she was accepting the award on behalf of the thousands of people who support the charity, including aid workers, and the 900 families who will this summer act as hosts to about 1,200 Belarussian children.

The Frantsysk Skrayna Order, named after the founder of Belarus's first printing press in the 16th century, is awarded to people considered to have made an outstanding contribution to the life of the Belarussian people.