There is a lot of talk, with President Obama’s trip to sign a new treaty about nuclear arms, about a nuclear-free future. I love that idea, and while I know it is in reference to weapons, and not nuclear energy, I come from a past of lots of “No Nukes” t-shirts and rallies, working as a volunteer at pancake breakfasts to raise money for the “Safe Energy” group in my home town, standing around a booth at the county fair with my mom as she handed out clothespins we had painted for weeks that had cute sayings about using the sun for power. Nuclear power has always scared me–and not without reason. I am certain the technology has grown in these last few decades, but I still remember being young and traveling with the family to see a nuclear reactor and looking down at some glowing, otherworldly rod or pod or some freaky, melt your face off thing. Even then, I was thinking, with alarm, “Why are we in this building?!”

And, of course, there are the tragedies of nuclear power. Most notably, Three Mile Island, and especially Chernobyl. There’s a charitable program, operating internationally and particularly near Chernobyl, with which you can volunteer to really make a difference in the lives of kids who have been born since the tragedy, surviving the disease and birth defects that are their lot in life for coming into the world in that particular place, filled with radiation and death, as it is. Chernobyl Children’s Project International uses the good will and hard work of international volunteers for medical and orphanage support work, building and construction, and recuperation programs. CCPI also does advocacy, education, and outreach in Belarus and globally, as so many of us are under the mistaken impression that the “cleanup” meant that problems are over. Sadly, that couldn’t be further from the truth. The organization does powerful work with juvenile cardiac care patients (huge numbers of kids need heart surgeries, and CCPI is making them more available than ever), orphanages, nursing, and hospice programs for the radically high numbers of terminally ill children.

This one will challenge your heart, but, in the words of the Dalai Lama, “If our tears do not lead us to act then we have lost the reason of our humanity, which is compassion.”

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