By Angie Weisgal and Daniel Keating
CEO of Chernobyl Children International Adi Roche attended the annual President’s Volunteer Awards (PVA) Ceremony at the University of Limerick (UL) as a special guest this week.
Speaking after the ceremony Ms Roche passionately emphasised the importance of acknowledging volunteers for their efforts and said it was “an inspiring day”.
She described coming to UL as a real uplift and she expressed how proud she was of each and every student honoured there and how there is a lot of hope built around these moments. She said that her “heart soars on days like today” and she loved seeing “the bright faces of all the young men and women” and a lively spirit.
She expressed the importance of active citizenship and how it is more than just volunteering; it is about marrying the local and the global: “Historically I just can see that there’s a great sense of internationalism, it’s lovely to build locally, but to think globally is so important.”
Ms Roche was keen to express her belief and confidence in the University of Limerick “You’re no the run of the mill University, it gives education a shake-up.” She added, “Primarily from today I take away great hope.”
Adding that PVA recipients are role models and have left a lasting mark on future generations, she recognised that these students have careers and lives outside of volunteering. Even if they aren’t continuously active volunteers, “the richness of it stays with you,” she added.
She discussed how Ireland’s history of being starved and having its own struggles is what paved the road for the culture of volunteering and helping each other out, but also declared the importance of perspective: “no matter how troubled we are in Ireland, that other people’s troubles are much worse, so it’s about keeping the perspective.”
Volunteering and supporting the children of Chernobyl is something Adi Roche sees as important because it keeps the story alive for generations to come, and especially for those born after the terrible tragedy happened.
She mentioned that one of her proudest moments with Chernobyl Children International was when she and a colleague had to negotiate and secure an adoption agreement for the children of Chernobyl to get adopted in Ireland.
“The most challenging part is keeping the story alive. Getting the message across to younger generations so that they understand the story of Chernobyl and how devastating it was and still is to local citizens.”
Ms Roche emphasised how volunteering is more than the awards. She described the awards as a celebration of other people’s talents, humanity, compassion, and passion for their volunteering. She described volunteers as humble, reticent, and that the awards are just the “icing on the cake” and that volunteers don’t do it for the awards, they do it because they love it.