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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.

Jan 2, 2014

Jan Families living in fear in South Sudan

2
2014

The situation in South Sudan is rapidly deteriorating and we are deeply concerned about the impact the fighting there is having on thousands of ordinary families.

In a conflict that has already claimed at least 1,000 lives, human rights violations including extreme acts of violence have left people in fear. The fighting has seen almost 200,000 people flee their homes and many are living in dire conditions, including being forced to go hungry or drink dirty water.

Above: Will Juma's family arrived in Jamam camp in South Sudan after fleeing conflict in their village in Sudan in 2012. When this picture was taken, he said: “We are relying for everything on this tree. We sleep here underneath it – there is nowhere else to shelter. And there is nothing except its leaves for us to eat. Food is our biggest concern here.” In 2014, thousands of families in South Sudan are facing a similar situation as the latest wave of violence forces people to leave their homes. Alun McDonald/Oxfam

On the ground

Oxfam has been working in the Southern Sudan region for 30 years and we are on the ground helping to provide desperately needed food, clean water and sanitation to those most in need.

One such area is the Awerial refugee camp on the banks of the Nile which is now home to 75,000 displaced people. Our rapid response team is there to support in the delivery of clean water, construction of latrines and public health work.

Peace solution urgently needed

The bloodshed and misery must stop. As peace talks begin in Ethiopia, political leaders taking part must urgently agree to halt the violence and work actively towards resolution of the crisis.

Oxfam strongly condemns the use of violent force against civilians and requests all parties to the conflict to respect the human rights of all its people regardless of their political or ethnic identity.

Oxfam in South Sudan

Oxfam has been working in Southern Sudan since 1983, providing humanitarian aid to victims of conflict, drought and floods, as well as long-term development assistance to some of the most vulnerable Sudanese communities, both in Darfur and South Sudan.

In the past year, we helped 172,000 vulnerable refugees who fled from Sudan to South Sudan with emergency relief and long-term development aid. Our work in the region has been a balance between humanitarian response as the priority focus in some areas, and where there is greater stability we help people to grow food and develop livelihoods.

We work through local partners and civil society organisations including women's groups.

A difficult place to live

South Sudan, which became an independent state on 9 July 2011, remains one of the poorest and least developed regions of the world, and most communities still have little access to basic services. It is increasingly reliant on emergency aid.

The country needs urgent support to respond to the humanitarian crisis now and be able to provide enough food, water and essential services to its people over the coming years.

You can help

Please donate here, call 1850 30 40 55 (Republic of Ireland) or 0800 0 30 40 55 (Northern Ireland) or go to your local Oxfam shop.

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