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U2 Interviews

The Unforgettable Fire with Ali Hewson
© The Big Issue, Rosemarie Meleady

(Ali Hewson talks to The Big Issues' Rosemarie Meleady about her work, fears and the possibility of adopting children in the future)

Paul Hewson, now known worldwide as `Bono,' the lead singer with mega-big rock band U2, fell head over heels in love with the attractive brown-eyed girl the first day she arrived at Mount Temple Secondary School, Dublin.

At first, Ali played hard to get as she was not going to be "just one of Paul's girls," but by his 17th birthday they were going out together. Now married for 16 years, Ali and Bono have two children, Jordan and Eve.

Ali Hewson is not the typical superstar's wife who lends her name to any charity that asks. Bono's childhood sweetheart has successfully kept her world private amidst the status which world fame brings. 38-year-old Ali, who exudes natural beauty, intelligence and warm friendliness, is the active working patron of the Chernobyl Children's Project (CCP). Alongisde CCP founder and presidential candidate, Adi Roche, Ali has driven the gruelling 2,500-mile journey from Ireland to Belarus in desperate missions to bring aid to some of the four million chidren who are chronically ill as a result of the Chernobyl Nuclear Disaster in 1986.

"I've been out there seven or eight times. The first time I went (in 1993) I didn't realise what i was going to be faced with. I don't think anybody did. Seven years on, poeple thought Chernobyl had gone away and the problem was over."

The eleventh aid convoy to Western Russia will be leaving Ireland in April, delivering everything from life-saving machines and ambulances to shoes and toys. Ali will not be accompanying this convoy.

"I've got two kids and their daddy has been away, so one of us has to be here."

Ali plans that when husband, Bono returns from his PopMart world tour she can head out to Belarus in Ocotber to do some hands-on work.

For the first time the convoy is linking with two other foreign charities, one of them being the Scottish charity Mission East, Ali explains: "They are going to the Ukraine and we're providing a truck for them. They were on the (RTE television chat show) The Pat Kenny Show and they showed some horrific footage of children being led in for operations without anaesthetics and being tied down to chairs. It was horrific. I couldn't watch it. Adi is going with that truck though. to find the place."

Although Ali plays a very active part in CCP, she would love to be able to do more.

"I don't have a skill. My biggest regret in life is that I never became a nurse because I'd be able togo out to all these countries and really help hands-on and really get stuck in."

Although Ali lives in Killiney, Co Dublin and the CCP office is in Cork, she has figured out a way of still doing continuous hands-on work.

"I sort of take on unusual cases, like little Yulya who has a very rare disease called PKU. She's not able to absorb protein into her body, so she has to have food that has absolutely no protein in it. If she takes in any protein she could go into a coma."

Ali sourced two companies - one in Spain and the other in Ireland - who now send a continuous supply of the specially manufactured food which Yulya needs to survive.

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