Luc Scheer, Joe Huggard, Nicola McEvoy, Tonika Hirdman, Marc Angel, Adi Roche and Irish ambassador Diarmuid O’Leary
Photo: Steve Eastwood
Development aid: During an address to the Irish Luxembourg Chamber of Commerce, Adi Roche praised the Grand Duchy’s commitment to helping other countries.
Adi Roche is a committed aid activist whose Chernobyl Children International (CCI), which has provided over 90 million euro in aid to help children, and their families, in the vast area still affected by the fallout of the nuclear disaster in the Ukraine over 25 years ago.
That distance in time is one factor that, says Roche, works against her organisation, she told a meeting of the Irish Luxembourg Chamber of Commerce on Monday evening (see picture report here). “Disasters are often relegated to the realms of history, especially for those who have no memory of them. But for the victims it is still an unfolding tragedy.”
Indeed, over 10,000 children each year are still being born with a genetic defect known as Chernobyl Heart. But the determination of Roche and her team--which famously includes Ali Hewson, the wife of Bono--means that help continues to reach the children and their families.
Roche says it was the beauty and innocence and the potential she saw in the affected children that inspired her to help them overcome the neglect and abandonment. “I was able to see beyond the politics, beyond the blame game and inadequacies, to see the child and anxious parents. To literally be able to save a child’s life is a rare and precious gift,” she said.
Roche came to Luxembourg at the invitation of ILCC after Luxembourg’s former International Rose of Tralee, Nicola McEvoy, spent some of her title-winning year volunteering in the Ukraine with the organisation.
Foregoing remuneration herself, thanks to the support of her husband, Roche argues that many charities suffer when it is revealed that their executives are on high salaries. “Accountability and transparency are sacrosanct,” she explained. “93 cents of every euro donated [to CCI] goes directly to one of the programmes, and [high net worth individuals] and corporations can come see for themselves the work we are doing.”
Luxembourg-based speakers at the event included member of parliament and president of the parliamentary commission that deals with development Marc Angel, Fondation du Luxembourg director general Tonika Hirdman and Red Cross Luxembourg director of human resources and communication Luc Scheer.
Angel explained the approach of the Luxembourg government to development aid--the Grand Duchy is a world leader in terms of percentage of GDP dedicated to aid, with the government pledging to retain its one percent target over the next five years--and said that its priority was to “reduce and eradicate poverty” with a focus on rural development, education and training and health issues. The government has its own Lux Development agency as well as some 95 NGOs operating under ministerial approval.
Earlier, citing the famous line by Thomas Fuller that “charity begins at home but should not end there”, Roche, too, acknowledged the Grand Duchy’s commitment. “Luxembourg has recognised that charity and solidarity should go beyond boundaries,” she said.