Chernobyl charity campaigner Adi Roche has dedicated her Freedom of Cork award to the survivors and victims of Chernobyl, and to her charity’s army of volunteers.

Ms Roche, who founded the charity Chernobyl Children International (CCI) in Cork in 1991 and who has overseen the delivery of some €100m worth of humanitarian aid to Chernobyl affected regions, was presented with the city’s highest civic honour by Lord Mayor Cllr Chris O’Leary, at a special meeting of Cork City Council yesterday.

Mr O’Leary said he wanted to honour Ms Roche for her outstanding humanitarian and advocacy work over three decades: “You are a shining example of what focus, commitment and dedication to a cause can achieve and you have demonstrated what is possible when one person dedicates their life to making positive change.”

Ms Roche said by granting her the award, Cork City was sending a loud message of hope and solidarity to the innocent victims of the nuclear tragedy, letting them know they are not forgotten.

“We honour you with this. We are with you in your loss and struggle, your pain and heartache,” she said.

Speaking to the Irish Examiner afterwards, Ms Roche said she cannot lead CCI forever. “But, for as long as I am able and for as long as people will have me, it will be my privilege to keep going,” she said. “For as long as I feel I can make a difference, I will be on that frontline. It’s where I feel most alive. And for as long as those kids need support, I’ll be there, shoulder to shoulder with them.”

She began working with victims of the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster within months of the catastrophe and founded CCI in 1991 with Mary Ahern, 86, from Ballinlough, who was in the audience yesterday. Also present were Ms Roche’s husband Sean and Anna Gabriel, from Bandon, one of the first Belarusian children to be adopted by an Irish family.

Ms Roche paid tribute to CCI’s ‘heroic volunteers’ and generous donors for their unwavering support and praised the thousands of families who have opened their homes to the young victims of Chernobyl. “I salute you all, You are the lifeblood of our charity,” she said.

Earlier Ms Roche planted a silver birch outside City Hall, a species of tree which grows profusely in the Chernobyl region.


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