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Br Liam O'Meara

Tell us about yourself?

I am William O'Meara – also known as Brother Liam – who has spent the last several years working in special needs orphanages in Belarus with Burren Chernobyl Project. After leaving Mary I, I taught for four years before joining the Christian Brothers.
After some more teaching I became involved with the Burren Chernobyl Project in Clare and this has taken over. Our work stretches back to 1994 when we first began work in Belarus. Since 2000 or thereabout I have been full time involved in working in some very difficult situations in the orphanages – but glad to report that we have made some great progress.
Tell us about your time in Mary Immaculate College?

I graduated – barely – from MIC in 1977. We were the first group to have to do a three year course and perhaps resented it a little bit as the teacher training up to that was only a two year course. It was a different world from now and one to look back on and compare and contrast. Mostly it was a happy, simple time.

One memory that stands out in your mind from your time in MIC?

My memories are mostly happy ones – playing cards in the lounge, between and during lectures. When on I was on the Coiste, we used read out the post at lunch time in the dining hall. As the names were read out, Liam O'Meara, Johnny Murphy, etc all the diners answered, ‘Pray for us'.

A member of staff who had an affect or made an impression on you during your time in MIC?

Staff members who made impressions of various kinds on me were Gerry Dukes for opening up English as did Florrie. Marie Therese was a personality unto herself. Sr Mary A as we knew her was a personage in her own right. Noel Moloney was a lovely man bringing our pedagogical options to the real world in basic English.

What changes would you like to see within MIC?

I presume the changes that were needed have come, that nobody still has to climb a gate to get back in to the college, that research is valued, that differences are tolerated – and yet that standards are maintained.

Do you maintain a relationship with MIC today?

No. I have very little contact with the College since leaving, being busy with so many other things.  Last year I joined the online community.

What is your current occupation?
At present, I am director of Burren Chernobyl Project with responsibility for work which we undertake in some of the worst orphanages in Belarus for mentally and physically challenged children and adults.
I have also written two books on our work there with the third at the publishers. The first book Fallout tells the raw story of getting going in Belarus in the early days. The second one, Nuclear Families, is a story of many of the events and people I net there woven into a storyline involving a boy, Andrei, after Chernobyl.
The next book, Meltdown Moments, is again back to the reality of people's lives in some of the most difficult situations in Belarus and our involvement in helping out. Due out soon!
What are your hopes/plans for the future?

I hope that I will become redundant – that orphanages will cease to exist. That every child will find a home and be wanted and that my work will not be necessary. In the meantime I keep going, to make things better for as many as we can. In 2010, we will be carrying out new project work in Rakov Adult Asylum as well as developing a Day Care Centre in Smolovichi. Our support for the children in Cherven and Gorodishche will continue as well as for the Adults in Yazovki, Pukavichi, Tarasiki and Kyl.

If you were President of MIC for a day what would you do?

If I were President of MIC today, I would see if we have a programme on how to motivate people who have lost hope even at a young age; have we a way of getting through to the ones where love has been turned into something that is not love. And I would encourage all the students to volunteer to work in Cherven or Gorodishche as part of their development work – or even get the musicians and singers to go to Belarus to perform in the orphanages!

If you could quickly sum up your time in MIC or have any advice for MIC students what would it be?

Life in Mary I was simple, a past world. Advice: enjoy it while you are there. The most important thing is not you or me but how I relate to you and how you relate to me. There is always only one child, there is never a class of children; each one is the one you will and must know and develop.

You can read more about the Burren Chernobyl Project here
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