Irish stars turned out in force Friday afternoon for ‘Liz and Noel’s Chernobyl Lunch’ at the Intercontinental Hotel to raise vital funds for Adi Roche’s Chernobyl Children International charity.
The annual fundraiser is hosted by Chernobyl Children International (CCI) Board Directors Liz O’Donnell (RSA Chairperson) and Noel Kelly (Businessman, Talent Manager) – who have played a pivotal role in supporting the charity to reach its goals for the past fifteen years. Each year the event is supported by Ireland’s much-loved stars, as well as the full voluntary Board of Directors of CCI, which is chaired by Peter Lacy and includes Ali Hewson, as well Chernobyl survivor Julie Shynkarenka.
Broadcasting legends Joe Duffy, and Ryan Tubridy, Operation Transformation’s Kathryn Thomas and Karl Henry, as well as Claire Byrne, Dave Fanning, Jenny Buckley, Aidan Power, Today FM’s Doireann Garrihy, Dermot Bannon and Morah Ryan all supported the event, which is in its ninth year. Lyric Soprano extraordinaire Celine Byrne entertained guests with her elegant repertoire, ahead of the highly anticipated Madama Butterfly at the Bord Gais Energy Theatre later in the month.
Speaking at the event was 26-year-old, Raisa Carolan, who was rescued by Adi Roche and CCI to be adopted by the Carolan family from Trim, Co. Meath. Raisa was abandoned into the No. 1 Home for Abandoned Babies in Minsk at birth. It was here that Adi Roche and Ali Hewson met Raisa, who was born with significant physical impairments which denied her the ability to walk or even eat properly from an early age. Through Chernobyl Children International’s Rest and Recuperation programme, Raisa was welcomed to the Carolan family in Co. Meath at the age of five. After several years and great perseverance, Raisa was officially adopted into the Carolan family in 2002 however Raisa’s adopted mother, Ann, sadly passed away in 2009. Raisa is a determined young woman despite being an amputee and having undergone over 30 operations in her lifetime. Raisa is also on the Irish Wheelchair Rugby team and has represented Ireland at international competitions.
She spoke about her memories and life’s experiences in an emotionally charged speech at the lunch;
“If I had stayed in Belarus, I can say for a fact I would not be alive today. Unfortunately, the pain, memories and trauma experienced during my time in Belarus is something that will always remain with me. I know that if I ever want to have my own children one day, there is a 50% chance they can be born with the same genetic conditions as I was. This means that I have to think long and hard about having a biological family of my own, because Chernobyl is crossing generations.”
The importance of Raisa’s powerful speech and the event were echoed by CCI’s Voluntary CEO Adi Roche, who said:
“Raisa truly is an exceptional young woman with an incredible tenacity to achieve. In her lifetime she has demonstrated uncommon bravery and courage despite the challenges she has faced such as being institutionalised, adopted at an older age and then losing her adopted mother, Ann. A lesser person would not have survived. She is the embodiment of everything ‘International Women’s Day’ represents.”
Before the lunch, guests enjoyed a champagne reception sponsored by Marks and Spencers. Businesses from all over the country showed their support for Liz and Noel’s Chernobyl Lunch with weekend breaks at a selection luxury resorts including The Blue Book, Wineport Lodge as well as a selection of auction items including an architectural consultation from ‘Room to Improve’ expert, Dermot Bannon and a signed Ronnie Wood painting of his Rolling Stones bandmate, Mick Jagger.
Photography by Brian McEvoy.