Local Chernobyl charity to finish 4th orphanage

Pictured here are the 64 members of the Athlone Chernobyl Aid Project last year outside the newly renovated orphanage in Opsa, Belarus, near the Latvian border.

Pictured here are the 64 members of the Athlone Chernobyl Aid Project last year outside the newly renovated orphanage in Opsa, Belarus, near the Latvian border.

An Athlone charity which has spent €0.5m over the last 10 years in the poorest country in Europe, expects to complete the renovation of its fourth Belarus orphanage this summer.

The Athlone Chernobyl Aid Project (ACAP ) is to send out its first team of volunteer builders and tradesmen early next month for its 11th summer of orphanage renovation in the Carolyna unit, in the town of Stolbtse near the Polish border.

“We hope to have up to 60 volunteers,” said Martin Reilly, ACAP co-ordinator, who will be sending out a small band of workers in early May to “clear the site and put in the foundations”.

The second group is to head out in July to build the new toilet and shower block, and the third group will travel in September to finish the interior of the project.

ACAP have spent a number of summers on the Carolyna site, and it is expected the new ablutions block will finish the capital works required for this facility, their fourth finished orphanage in the former Soviet state.

Every trade is coming with us, all great lads, although this year will not be as large as last year,” said Martin. Each of the volunteers pay their own airfare to Minsk and will have been busy fundraising all year.

“The main fundraiser this year will be a €16,000 grand prize draw, with the first prize a car,” said Mr Reilly.

This will be held in Shines Bar, Baylough on May 22, with music by the Fabulous Bonker Boys. Tickets are €10 each or €20 for three and all funds raised go directly to the orphanage.

ACAP started in 2000 with 30 volunteers and last year 64 travelled.

There are about 160 children in the Carolyna orphanage, ranging in age from six to 16.

So far ACAP has fittted all new windows, doors, floors, laundry, and kitchen.

“Basically, we’ve kitted out the whole thing,” said Mr Reilly.

Although ACAP couldn’t afford the €100,000 required for a new heating system, a recent award for the orphanage saw it qualify for a government grant to achieve this. The ACAP shower and toilet block will be the final renovation required at Carolyna.

For safety, and to facilitate the speed of completion, the children will be away from the orphanage on special holidays abroad to coincide with the arrival of the works teams. Some of these will be on annual holiday in Athlone, as well as elsewhere in Ireland.

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