On Valentine’s Day, the reigning Rose of Tralee Dr Jennifer Byrne, along with 27 fellow Roses and Escorts, traveled to Belarus to work as medical and teaching volunteers for children with special needs with Adi Roche’s Chernobyl Children International charity.
The 24-year-old Ballinahown native, who is a doctor in the Accident and Emergency Department of University College Hospital Galway, will put her skills and expertise to use as she volunteers in an institution for children with disabilities and special needs in the Chernobyl affected regions of Belarus. She will be joined by an international group of Roses from USA, Australia, UK, Germany and 20 Irish counties.
Speaking of the upcoming visit to the Chernobyl affected regions, Jennifer said: “I am really looking forward to volunteering in the Chernobyl affected regions of Belarus in my capacity as a medical professional. I hope to bring some medical supplies with me to help out in any way I can in Belarus.
"As a doctor, I’m eager to work with the children with profound health issues and hopefully add to their quality of life. I’m looking forward to seeing the incredible work being carried out by Adi Roche and highlighting this fantastic charity”.
Many of the Roses and Escorts have medical, nursing, social work, training and teaching skills which will allow them to make an important contribution to the work which is being carried out at in Vesnova Children’s Mental Institution where they will be spending the week. This year’s group includes teachers, nurses and disability support workers among them.
Galway Rose Niamh Elwood is a nurse who works alongside Jennifer in the University College Hospital Galway. Fermanagh Rose Stephanie Maguire, who has a Masters Degree in Inclusion and Special Needs Education will volunteer alongside Meath Rose Anne Lynam, whose Postgraduate studies specialised in Wheelchair Mobility, and nine teachers in a special Valentines aid mission. The group of 27 are all using their professional skills, working alongside Vesnova’s permanent staff to stimulate the children and to support them with the rehabilitative work they are undertaking in a bid to improve their quality of life.
Vesnova is located about 175 kilometres from the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. The facility, which caters for 174 children with severe physical and intellectual disabilities is supported by Adi Roche’s Chernobyl Children International. Teams of volunteer Irish builders have spent the past 15 years turning it from a once derelict asylum into a world-class child care centre.
A volunteer link-up between Chernobyl Children International and the Rose of Tralee Festival has seen high skilled Rose Volunteers and their Escorts travel to Belarus twice a year since 2011 to spend a week working in Vesnova Children’s Mental Institution, most recently in November 2017.
Ahead of flying to Belarus to oversee programme development, CCI Voluntary CEO Adi Roche paid tribute to the Roses and Escorts who are taking time out of their busy schedules to volunteer: “Jennifer and her Rose family are a highly skilled group of volunteers who will follow in their predecessors footsteps by making a profound impact. For the past 7 years Chernobyl Children International have been so blessed by these volunteers’ immeasurable contributions. They bring with them a tiding of hope and goodwill – a true embodiment of the values instilled by the Rose of Tralee festival”.