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Mar 27, 2014

Mar Sharon Corr’s mum was and always will be her hero

27
2014

Oxfam Ireland Ambassador Sharon Corr is convinced her mother could have been a successful singer if she’d had the opportunity – but the social norms meant she had to stay home to raise her family.

“My mum grew up in an era where women were more or less dictated to - you must go to work because your brothers need to go to university, you must leave work because you are married and your job is now to look after your husband and have kids,” said Sharon.

Sharon is currently in the US on a world tour with her new album The Same Sun and said the title track was inspired by her trip to Tanzania visiting Oxfam’s women’s rights programmes.

Clockwise from top: Sharon Corr attends an event in Mgeta village organised as part of our We Can campaign to combat domestic violence. This social movement recruits ‘change-makers’, people who pledge to change their attitudes and behaviours towards violence against women. Sharon wears a traditional African headscarf presented to her by local women from Iyenge village. Sharon gets ready to play traditional Irish music for locals in Kimamba village. All photos by Barry McCall/Oxfam

Sharon is now supporting our Female Heroes campaign, which encourages people across the island of Ireland to celebrate the inspirational women in their lives.

“Going to Tanzania was a truly life-changing experience. It reinforced for me the power of women to change the world. No matter what challenges they might face and the obstacles in their way, women will do everything they can to overcome them for the good of their family and community,” Sharon said.

“My mother was a beautiful singer and I believe if she had had half the chance she could have really reached for the stars but she stayed at home and looked after us and she took great pride in that - making our clothes, cooking wonderful dinners - she did everything for us and gave us a wonderful childhood.

“She also taught us to follow our dreams. I don't believe you can put a value on that - she gave us wings so we could fly and dreamed of great things for us and I am so glad that she saw our success.

“To me a hero is someone who stands up for what she believes in, who puts the greater good ahead of herself and inspires others because of her strength, her kindness and her courage.” Sharon said.

“We’ve made a lot of strides in Ireland over the years towards equality between the sexes. But we must never take this for granted, nor forgot the women who made this possible from the suffragettes to the feminist movement. Our daughters will grow up with opportunities our grandmothers could only have dreamt of.

“Despite the many advances, women still struggle with sexism in many areas of life. My own experience in the music industry has been a largely positive one, yet there is still so much more focus on woman’s appearance compared to men rather than on her talent and abilities as a performer.

“But there are many strong women both on stage and behind the scenes, along with the fans themselves, who are changing the dynamic,” said Sharon.

Clockwise from top: Our ambassador Sharon Corr meets Female Food Heroes winner Ester Jerome Mtegule at her home in Lyenge village.  Rice farmer Halima Shida shares a moment with Sharon Corr outside her home in Kimamba village. Sharon Corr meets last year’s finalists (from left to right) Mwandiwe Makame, Anna Oloshiro and the winner Ester Jerome Mtegule, along with Oxfam Ireland’s Monica Gorman, at the launch of the 2012 Female Food Heroes competition. All photos by Barry McCall/Oxfam

“Seeing the difference our support can make, I would encourage people throughout Ireland - North and South - to celebrate the women who have made a difference in their lives with an Oxfam Heroes card, gift or event.

“We all know heroes, but how often have you told someone that they’re yours? Not only is it a beautiful way to say thanks to a female hero in your life, but you’ll also make a positive difference to women living in extreme poverty worldwide.

“Heroes change the world in big ways and in small. My motto is that we do not need to do great things, just little things with great love.

Celebrate your Hero this Mother's Day with one of our special gifts. 100% of the profits go to supporting Oxfam's work with women worldwide.  You can see more from Sharon's trip to Tanzania in the video below.

Mar 25, 2014

Mar My Mum, my hero

25
2014

From an early age my Mum gave me a taste for adventure and exploration, of the world beyond my doorstep but also the world within – my own potential and my spirituality, to wonder, ignite curiosity, to question, to move from the heart. She gave me courage and taught me that grit goes hand in hand with grace, especially as a woman. Where grit means determination, fearlessness and courage and grace is beauty in action, being impeccable with your word, being kind to yourself and others.

We both share a love for the ocean. My Mum was a surfer when she was in her teens, at a time when surfing wasn’t trendy, cool or mainstream and she was one of very few women doing it in Ireland. A pioneer and rebel going against her parent’s wishes and using all her savings to buy her first surfboard, hiding her first surf injury under a hat for an entire summer because she didn’t want her parents to stop her doing what she loved. Luckily for me, I was actively encouraged to pursue my love for the sea and surf.

I travelled the world with her from an early age. Mum believes in the importance of marking rites of passage in life, the great turning points in our life, on the ‘hero’s journey’. Experiencing new places, people and cultures from such a young age had a huge impact on my life and my worldview. When I was 11, before I finished primary school and began secondary school I went on an adventure with my Mum to Nepal. I say adventure because a part from booking the return flights everything else was an unknown and we lived one day at a time, each day full of possibility, and the unexpected was always to be expected.

Above: Easkey and her mum's return journey to Nepal & Bhutan in 2012. Photos: Easkey Britton / NC Britton.

Nepal opened me to the light and dark of the world – a place where life and death co-existed and were celebrated – milk was used to cleanse the dead and blood was used to cleanse the living. I met lepers and a living goddess, monks and thieves, holy men and con artists, Tibetan refugees and Nepalese Royalty. It was something that both my parents never hide from me – the rawness of life in all its colour. The memories remain the most of vivid of any trip, still. I’ve always been a writer. I find it goes hand in hand with travel and I’ve kept a journal since I was a child. I dug out my journal that I kept when I was in Nepal that first time. Here is an excerpt from my 11 year old self that best captures the essence of that journey with Mum;

Pokhara, November 1997

In the boat on the lake as the sun rises over the Himalayas, burning away the cloud and illuminating the snowy peaks in a blaze of pink and gold. Mammy and I dash back across the lake, pulling hard on the owers, quickly find a taxi driver who is willing to take us up the nearby mountain, up the hair-pin bends. We stop when the road stops and begin our climb.

We climb through the mountain village to the top of the mountain where a mix of souls have gathered in the dawn light to stand in awe before the mighty Himalaya mountains. The pink and golden peak of Macchupichari rising the highest before us, the Annapurnas in the distance. It is a vision that is forever burned into my memory, a sight so beautiful and humbling it would move any being to tears.

Bodhunath, November 1997

Walking around Bodhnath stupa turning prayer wheels, Buddhist monks prostrating, young monks with arms around each other. Drink a lassi on the roof top in the morning mist. Visit a Tibetan tailor and buy little monks clothes for me. This is where they filmed Little Buddha. A poor Nepalese man sat with us on the whitewashed steps telling us his sad story of his dying sister and no medicine or money for doctors. I read in the guidebook to be wary of such scams. He could be lying or telling the truth, it didn’t matter. He was so desperate and we had more than him so Mum gave him the money she had. I don’t think it was enough to fix his problems. It’s like trying to stop a flood by building a dam of pebbles...but I think it is much worse to do nothing at all...

Clockwise from top: Tika Dalarmi at home in Nepal. Tika is recognised everywhere in the village and says her life has been transformed, thanks to Oxfam's Raising her Voice project and the extraordinary efforts of local women themselvesRaising Her Voice is a global project being implemented in 17 countries to try to overcome the widespread marginalisation of women. Oxfam works with partner organisations to promote the rights and ability of poor women to increase their influence and ensure their voices are heard so that those in power, from village leaders to politicians and law-makers, become more accountable to them. Over five years (2007-2012), more than a million women have seen life-changing benefits as a result of the project that changes attitudes towards women and the role they play.Tika holds photos of her husband, who is away working elsewhere in Nepal to earn money for the family during the lean season. Photos: Aubrey Wade/Oxfam. 

These stories show the gifts Mum gave me then - the wonder and beauty of nature, to be in awe at a power greater than ourselves and the importance of gratitude and giving, how even a small act of kindness matters.

I promised I would return the gift by taking my Mum on an adventure when I was old enough to treat her. We left with this knowing deep down that we would return. In 2012, after 15 years of saving and submitting my PhD I took Mum back to Nepal and across the Himalayas into the Buddhist mountain kingdom of Bhutan, the land of Gross National Happiness. When we travel together and share experiences like that it doesn’t feel like we are mother and daughter, more like best friends – sharing and challenging the best in each other be it scaling mountains 10,000ft high to a ‘tiger’s nest’ or receiving blessings from reincarnated lamas, braving the local chilli dish or learning how to shoot arrows. We find where our strengths are and how we can support each other, for example, when Mum goes shopping I do the bargaining or when I want to get up close and personal to a wild rhino, Mum (tries) to hold me back.

On International Women’s Day I had the opportunity to collaborate with my Mum on a health and wellbeing course she is running with a local community group. It was such a special and powerful thing to share, to be in my Mum’s work space and to see her in her element. How she makes the space so welcoming and sacred, with such care and attention, the love and gratitude shared by the participants. I was there to share my story and to talk about ‘exploring our true potential,’ a path Mum and I have been on all our lives and will continue to travel on together. 

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Feb 25, 2014

Feb Brand new designer dresses with bargain price at the Oxfam Bridal Fair

25
2014

Are you looking for the wedding dress of your dreams without having to spend a fortune? Look no further than Oxfam’s Bridal Week, kicking off this Saturday at 10am in Oxfam Bridal on George’s Street, Dublin.

The main event will take place on Saturday 1 and Sunday 2 March but due to last year’s popular demand the event will run for a further five days, opening from 10am until 8pm on Saturday and weekdays, and 12pm to 6pm on the Sunday. 

This year’s Wow Factor comes in the form of a pre-loved lace bridal dress by internationally-renowned designer Vera Wang. This stunning gown is on sale at the unbelievable price of €800 and comes complete with its original Certificate of Authentication.

PHOTOS: Here's a selection of the type of brand new designer dresses we sell at Oxfam Bridal.  Middle-row, centre: Sean Breithaupt & Yvette Monahan. All others: Darren Fitzpatrick.

Check out Oxfam George's St. on Twitter for a sneak peek at the Vera Wang gown on sale there!

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Feb 7, 2014

Feb 547,000 thank yous from the Philippines

7
2014

Three months on since Typhoon Haiyan wreaked devastation across the Philippines on November 8th, we'd like to share this video with you as a thank you for your generosity during our emergency appeal. Across the island of Ireland, we raised more than €300,000/£250,000 and 100% of every donation has gone to our specific response.

Oxfam has reached 547,000 people with life-saving aid. We couldn't do any of this without your incredible support.  

Our response

Our immediate response focused on Northern Cebu, Leyte and Eastern Samar. Our teams faced huge logistical challenges - roads were blocked, airports closed, and electricity and water supplies cut off. But, by the end of the first week, people devastated by the typhoon were already receiving essential supplies of water, food and shelter. 

We're now focusing on longer term support, helping people get their livelihoods back, for example by repairing fishing boats or distributing rice seeds.

Thank you for standing in solidarity with the people of the Philippines during this most of difficult of times.

Once again, a massive thanks to everyone who supported this appeal. Once you've watched the video please share on Facebook and Twitter to show your friends why you support Oxfam Ireland.

Jan 15, 2014

Jan Helping refugees stay warm this winter

15
2014

If there’s one thing that makes winter weather feel even worse, it’s not being properly dressed for the cold. Without our usual winter layers, it’s easy to imagine that we would feel the chill and wind much more acutely. 

Right now, staying warm is essential in in Ireland where we are feeling the grips of January frost and where sub-freezing temperatures are becoming normal. It’s also essential in Lebanon, where nearly one million refugees from the conflict in Syria are facing cold temperatures, rain and even snowstorms. Families are shivering through the winter in tents, unheated shelters, and other tough living conditions. Many fled their homes with little or no possessions, and now lack the means to buy warm clothes to bundle up against the chill.

“The clothes in Lebanon are so expensive I can’t afford to buy them for my children,” said Kawser Silka, 23, whose family of five people shares a single 10-by-13-foot room in a building inhabited by 12 other refugee families. This living situation has become a problem in winter, she explained: “It’s too cold. We don’t have stoves or any heaters and the windows are not fixed.”

Clockwise from top: Leila Silka, 5, holds a bag of winter clothes that were just purchased by her mother, Kawser, with a €30 voucher provided by Oxfam and a local partner organization. Kawser Silka, 23, a mother of three from near Idlib in Syria, holds her son Abdul Brahim, 2. Khaldiyeh Sika, 37, from near Idlib in Syria, looks for clothes for her five children which she will pay for with a €30 voucher supplied by Oxfam, with the assistance of partner agency JAK, in Qalamoun, north Lebanon, on December 26, 2013. Photos: Sam Tarling/Oxfam 

To help some of the most vulnerable families in Lebanon survive the cold, Oxfam is distributing cash and vouchers to 11,900 refugees so they can buy plastic sheeting, heating stoves, fuel, blankets, and warm clothing. The support will benefit about 59,500 people.

Among them are families in Qalamoun, north Lebanon, including Silka’s, who in late December received €30 vouchers from Oxfam’s local partner organization JAK. Families used the vouchers to buy coats, sweaters, and more to help their children stay warm in the winter months. Silka said this is the first time she has been able to give her three children new clothes since they came to Lebanon a year ago.

Giving people vouchers that they can spend themselves, rather than handing out clothes, empowers families to make their own choices about what to buy—a privilege that many of us sometimes take for granted. Enaam Yousef, 40, told Oxfam that it had been a welcome change to be able to choose the clothes she wanted for once, instead of hoping that relatives in Syria could buy clothes and send them to her.

“I’m a widow of 14 years and my daughter is too young to work,” said Yousef. “If nobody helped me, who could support this family? No one.”

Oxfam is on the ground in Syria, Jordan, and Lebanon, delivering life-saving essentials, and we’re making great progress thanks to our supporters. Overall, we’re helping a half-million people affected by the Syria crisis across Syria, Lebanon, and Jordan. Join us today.

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