Vasilli and his host mother, Eileen Morrissey
Santa Claus himself will provide a special sleigh-ride escort to Dublin Airport from the Chernobyl-affected regions of Belarus for a group of children with special needs who will on Wednesday begin a two-week long Christmas 'Rest and Recuperation' stay in counties across Ireland.
The Kilkenny Outreach Group will welcome vulnerable children and young adults to Ireland for the programme. Children as young as 13 will join Vasilli Lyskavets, who will be returning to his loving 'Irish family', the Morrisseys, who are a volunteer host family with the Kilkenny Outreach Group. The Morrissey family have hosted Vassili for over 10 years, during which time he has become one of the family, attending family weddings and special occasions.
Vasilli has lived in Vesnova Children Institution as long as he can remember. Abandoned to Vesnova with his brother at a young age, their lives appeared to be lost and separation seemed a certainty but through CCI’s intervention we have managed to keep the boys together.
Vasili and his brother Alexei live together in our Independent Living Home. This historic programme pioneered by CCI and established in 2009 enabled Vasilli and his brother to move from Vesnova into an independent living house and escape a future of adult institutions offering them a bright future.
The Kilkenny Outreach Group fundraise tirelessly throughout the year in order to give these children and adults a much needed break. Activities such as their hugely successful annual 2017 Mary Slattery Chernobyl Cycle as well as a Fashion Show and American Tea Party funds the life-prolonging programme for so many. The success of CCI’s oldest programme is due to the commitment, dedication and kindness of thousands of host families from Kilkenny and all over Ireland.
Host families from nine counties will welcome the children for the start of their life-prolonging respite holiday, during which time radiation levels in the children drop by nearly 50% and up to two years is added to their life expectancy. The trip, code named 'Operation Sleigh Ride' has been organised by the Adi Roche’s Chernobyl Children International (CCI) charity which has brought more than 25,500 children to Ireland to stay with host families since 1991.
“For many of these children, nothing as magical as this will ever have happened in their lives," says Chernobyl Children International Voluntary CEO Adi Roche.
"This is the true meaning of Christmas – it’s about family and sharing. Some of the host families at Dublin airport will have hosted children of Chernobyl many times before, and they will be the first to tell you how these children truly become part of the family and an integral part of Christmas traditions. The positive impact these stays have on the children is a testament to three generations of truly remarkable Irish volunteers.”
Since 1991, over 25,500 children from Belarus and Western Russia have come to Ireland through Adi Roche’s charity on this Rest and Recuperation programme.