Russian president Vladimir Putin is to honour an Irish charity boss with one of his country’s highest humanitarian awards.
Fiona Corcoran, the founder of the Cork-based Greater Chernobyl Cause, will be presented with Russia’s Order of Friendship in the Kremlin in Moscow tomorrow in recognition of her outstanding charity work in western Russia.
Ms Corcoran is the first Irish person to receive the state decoration of the Russian Federation. It was established by presidential decree in 1994 to reward Russian and foreign nationals whose “work, deeds, and efforts are aimed at the betterment of relations” with the Russian Federation and its people.
Ms Corcoran began her charity work in Ukraine before moving to neighbouring Belarus and western Russia — regions affected by the fallout from the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster.
She admitted she was a little nervous about accepting the award from the Russian president, given the tense situation in the Ukraine.
But she said her charity work was above politics and the award represented a triumph of sheer perseverance of the charity’s countless volunteers over the years.
“I will accept this on behalf of all our supporters through Ireland,” she said.
“This award will help our work tremendously in Russia. Charity is the power of defending that which we know to be indefensible.”
Ms Corcoran has previously been awarded the Order of Princess Olga for her work in Ukraine and has been decorated with an Honorary Medal and Diploma by President Nursultan Nazarbayev of Kazakhstan.
Her charity has worked tirelessly to transform the lives of some of the weakest and most vulnerable, including elderly people and children, who are condemned to life in desperate and dilapidated institutions, hospices, and halfway houses struggling to cope with a lack of food, medicines, and basic hygiene.
But the charity is now experiencing a funding crisis due to the recession and Ms Corcoran said they need urgent donations to continue their work.
“In the past, the Greater Chernobyl Cause has shown strength in the face of adversity but now we are facing a most daunting challenge as donations run out because of the credit crunch,” she said.
Her charity has one paid employee on an industrial wage. Rent, rates, storage, flights, ferries, and vehicle insurance are sponsored.
She appealed for anyone who can help to donate to the charity.
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