Every year Myrtle Doherty makes an appeal for items to send to an orphanage in Belarus, here she tells Donegal Woman about the vital impact they have on children.
Myrtle Doherty has been collecting items to send to Belarus for the past seven years, with each appeal bringing more and more goods to disabled children.
The Vesnova children’s orphanage in Belarus cares for almost 200 children with intellectual and physical disabilities. Chernobyl Children International have transformed this asylum from a place of hopelessness into a caring home for many children over the past 15 years.
Myrtle Doherty is a caring mother from Ramelton who was inspired to give back to children after adopting a baby from Vietnam in 2007. Her eldest son Luka, now aged 10, was a ‘blessing’ to her and her husband Alan, so they wanted to do something to help other children.
Most of the children in Vesnova have been affected by the Chernobyl nuclear disaster. The radioactive fall-out from the disaster in 1986 caused a sharp rise in birth defects and cancer deaths.
“A friend of mine put me in contact with Jim Kavanagh, a lorry driver who works with the Chernobyl Kilkenny Outreach Group. He said to me “If you gather nappies, I’ll come and collect them.” So now every year Jim comes to Donegal with a 40ft lorry and we fill it,” Myrtle said.
“Jim drives the lorry to Belarus himself, so we know the items go directly to the children. It makes such a difference to the lives of children in Vesnova and other childcare centres in the area.”
“There is a huge amount of disability in the orphanage. The biggest size of nappies we send out is for children aged 6, but they fit 10 and 11 year olds out there.”
From 1,500 to 35,000 – the number of nappies Myrtle collects is reaching phenomenal amounts. She also gathers clothes, toys and vital medications.
“We’ve had to change our request this year as we can no longer send out prams and high chairs or hard toys. However, the kids love a soft bear to cuddle up to at night.”
It takes a huge community effort to gather thousands of items every January and get them to Ramelton for the lorry collection.
“As soon as the Christmas decorations go away we begin taking in items. The last week of January is just bedlam when we have big deliveries coming in at the very end.”
Since Myrtle’s latest appeal went out last night, it has been shared hundreds of times as people from all over Donegal want to help.
“We have a regular team who are always eager to help load up the lorry at the beginning of February. It takes 20-25 people, and we have a relay team passing everything out. Everyone enjoys the teamwork and all the craic on the day.”
“It feels great to be able to give back in some way. Our son Luka and our little girl Tiana are a blessing, and we always felt we wanted to do something after seeing the orphanages in Vietnam.”
Myrtle is kept busy being a mum, teaching baking classes and running a local toddler group. She starts every year on a great note with this appeal, and encouraging others to be kind and donate to children elsewhere is definitely time well-spent.