FOUNDER of The Greater Chernobyl Cause, Fiona Corcoran, embarks on a humanitarian aid trip to Russia this week where the charity purchased an ambulance for the people of Ivanskoye Kostroma.
In Russia the Greater Chernobyl Cause works in the remote countryside of Kostroma some 200 miles northeast of Moscow. An Irish priest alerted Corcoran to the plight of elderly people living in a dilapidated hospice at the village of Ivanskoye in 2000.
Originally planned as a response to the Chernobyl tragedy, the charity has since expanded its mission and now works on projects such as rebuilding orphanages and hospices and organizing food and medical programmes in Russia, Kazakhstan and Ukraine.
At Ivanskoye, Ms Corcoran said she found 30 elderly patients who had been left to rot in a leaking building without proper food or medication.
“The place was rat-infested and stank of urine,” she says. "The hospice in the Kostroma oblast, which gives the last shelter to the old and infirm was in such a dreadful state that the Government shut it down, condemning the patients to the prospect of a slow and painful death."
"The only ambulance was withdrawn and with no other way to bring them to hospital there were several cases of old people being found dead in their beds weeks after they had succumbed to the freezing conditions and left with nothing to eat."
Doctors in the area have been forced to walk up to 20 km a day to visit their patients, she said. The charity has made major improvements to renovation, diet, medical care and hygiene.
The hospice has since been opened and The Greater Chernobyl Cause plans to have this facility fully renovated, which will be then a safe and secure hospice for up to 30 residents.
The new ambulance is a lifeline for the forgotten patients.
The Greater Chernobyl Cause relies almost entirely for support from fundraising activities in the towns and villages of Ireland.
Fiona was inspired to establish the Greater Chernobyl Cause after volunteering to work with a group of children at the Mercy hospital in Cork.
They were being treated in the wake of the disastrous explosion at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in Ukraine in 1986.
Recently President Vladimir Putin presented an award to Ms Corcoran in acknowledgement of the work of the Greater Chernobyl Cause in Russia.
The Russian president handed Ms Corcoran the Order of Friendship medal at a ceremony in the Kremlin t to endorse “outstanding humanitarian work in Russia “ “Winter has once again forced its icy grip. With that, we hope to bring renewed hope and dignity to a community where life and death have always been close neighbours.” Please visit www.greaterchernobyl cause.ie for further details