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Bloom 2017 - A World Beyond Walls

Friday, May 26th

In recent years, new border walls and fences have materialised across the world. In total, there are now 63 borders where walls or fences separate neighbouring countries. Most of them have been constructed within the European Union. At this year’s Bloom festival (Thursday June 1st to Monday June 5th in Dublin's Phoenix Park), Oxfam Ireland and GOAL are pushing back against the border wall.

Our joint Bloom garden will open a window into ‘A World Beyond Walls’ highlighting the need for a more inclusive global society, at a time of growing division across the world.

Oxfam GOAL garden at Bloom 2017

Designed by Niall Maxwell, the Oxfam Ireland and GOAL Garden will be a vibrant, community space at the imagined location of a former border wall.

Some of the concrete-like slabs have been removed from the structure and placed in front of the old wall to create the form and function of a garden, or social space, to be enjoyed by all.

What were once parts of an oppressive obstruction will become communal seating areas where the weary can rest, where children can play, where families can picnic, and where artists can perform.

Through a grit-gravel surface, a diverse planting scheme will soften the harsh concrete angles of the garden, and a light airy canopy of trees will provide shelter and shade.

‘The Oxfam Ireland and GOAL Garden – A World Beyond Walls’ will be a space for all members of society to enjoy in a spirit of harmony and unity.

Right to Refuge campaign

We’re inviting visitors to Bloom to support our Right to Refuge campaign – we’re calling upon the Irish government to remove the barriers that tear families seeking refuge apart and to allow families to come safely to this country.

Right now, refugee children over the age of 18 are separated from parents and younger siblings, grandparents are separated from grandchildren and children travelling alone cannot reach extended family settled in Ireland who want to welcome and protect them. If you would like to learn more about this campaign, please talk to the Oxfam Ireland team at the Oxfam and GOAL Garden, or visit the Oxfam Campaigns Tent, which is located in the Conservation Zone. Using virtual reality headsets, visitors to the tent can experience the life of a woman in Iraq forced to flee her home.

To vote for the Oxfam and GOAL garden, text GARDEN8 to 51500 (standard SMS rates apply). Vote before 13:00hrs on Monday, 5th June. Votes after this time will not be counted but text votes may be charged. Please follow the voting instructions exactly or your vote may not come through. ONE vote per person per garden only. SMS Provider: Puca, +353 1 499 5939. Votes open to ROI & NI residents only.
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Celebrating Volunteers: Celine Voiry from Oxfam's shop in Galway

Celine Voiry has just celebrated her one year anniversary as a volunteer at the Oxfam shop in Galway, first volunteering all the way back in March 2016. Here she tells us a bit more about herself and her work with us at Oxfam Ireland.

What does a typical day look like when you’re working in the shop?
I arrive, I open the shop, set up the till, clean up a little – just get ready for the day. I mostly work in the back: sorting and steaming clothes. I do a lot of different things! I like it because I like fashion, especially clothes and shoes.
I am an Oxfam shopper too – for me and my husband – because the shop has beautiful clothes. We get lots of great donations!
 
What’s your favourite things about working in the shop?
Shoes, shoes, shoes! And sorting and looking at the children’s clothes – I have a teenage son. I also really enjoy working with the team – I have a good manager, all the volunteers are lovely and we have a great ambience in the shop.
 
Why did you choose to volunteer with Oxfam Ireland?
I wanted to practise my English - I live in Galway but I’m originally from Paris – so I started to volunteer but now I love what I do so I decided to stay!
 
Tell us about yourself…
My hobbies are fitness and sports as well as reading books, shopping and going to the pub with my friends. I also like walking my dog. I just don’t like sitting on the sofa – I like being active!
 
Next time you’re in Galway why not pop in and say hi?
 
If you would like any further information about volunteering with Oxfam Ireland simply email volunteer@oxfamireland.org
 
Oxfam volunteer Celine Voiry
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Oxfam enters merger talks with GOAL

We are delighted to share an exciting new development at Oxfam Ireland – we are entering into formal discussions with the aid agency GOAL on a potential merger.

If the merger is successful it would see our two organisations come together as one, with the proposed name of Oxfam GOAL.

We’re exploring this opportunity because we believe that together we can save more lives, deliver greater impact, achieve stronger results and support more people to lift themselves out of poverty.

Joining forces will increase the scale and scope of our humanitarian and long-term development programmes and strengthen our voice as advocates for the communities we support.

Both organisations share long-standing operations in Ireland - Oxfam since the 1950s, while GOAL celebrates its 40th anniversary this year. And we already share key areas of focus and work in many of the same countries.

GOAL’s action-oriented approach and first responder ethos is core to their DNA and has saved millions of lives. Oxfam’s approach of practical action and people-led response, challenging the structures and systems that keep people locked in poverty, has led to real change across the world. We believe that a merger would create new energy and dynamism through sharing programmatic, geographic and other synergies.

As we begin a robust due diligence exercise and examine the possibility of a merger over the coming weeks, we will continue with our life-saving and life-changing work as normal. Any partnership with GOAL will retain and respect both of our unique heritages to create a better organisation rooted in the Irish tradition of social justice.

For updates, keep an eye here and on our Twitter and Facebook.

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A year in pictures: The impact you helped to achieve in 2016

2016 was surely a challenging but rewarding year.

The continuation of conflict across the Middle East and East Africa, the ever-changing face of our climate and volatile weather systems, the rising inequality which drives global poverty and of course, the escalating refugee crisis, are challenges which have undoubtedly caused much devastation and sorrow across the world. 

And with all the challenges that exist today, it can be easy to overlook what is being achieved. 

Over the last two decades, the world has seen the fastest reduction in poverty in human history. 660 million people have lifted themselves out of poverty. Average real incomes in developing countries have doubled, and life expectancy has increased by four years.

In the past 10 years, more than 50 million children have started school in sub-Saharan Africa.

And, thanks to the amazing support of our donors, campaigners, volunteers and staff, Oxfam’s programmes this past year directly helped an incredible 22.2 million people around the world.

Because you were there to help people in crisis, we could be too. 

Every water pump you help install, every vegetable plot you help to dig, every child you send to school and every voice you’ve made heard has a powerful impact on people’s lives.

Below is just a small snapshot of some of our favourite images which show how your support helped Oxfam make an incredible difference during 2016. Take a moment to savour the achievements you’ve made possible – and know that, with your support, we did this together.

BEST FOOT FORWARD

A loan from an Oxfam-supported women’s saving group in Liberia’s Tappita district helped Beatrice Mabiam to start selling shoes again. It’s part of a scheme to help families get back on their feet after the Ebola crisis. Beatrice says: “I tell the Oxfam family thank you, big thank you, because you really empower women. Poverty is reducing so we really appreciate you.” Photo: Tommy Trenchard/Oxfam

GREEN SHOOTS

Na and Sonphet Chantahun stand in a rice field in Vientiane, Laos. Over the past decade a paved road and electricity have improved life for their village’s 50 families. But alongside this welcome progress, climate change has brought unprecedented and unpredictable weather patterns, disrupting harvests. Sonphet says: “I am happy to be working with Oxfam to set up the Disaster Risk Reduction committee in the village. I use the speaker system that Oxfam provided to give early warnings when there is a flood, so that people can move their possessions. We grow adapted rice from the Phonsung Agricultural Development Centre [an Oxfam partner].” Photo: Tessa Bunney/Oxfam

BEE-GINNING A NEW CHAPTER

Augustina lives in Nandom, northern Ghana, one of the poorest parts of the country. Oxfam is helping farmers to survive and thrive, by trialling new farming methods and alternative income-generating activities like beekeeping. “As a mother, life was stressful. We couldn’t meet our needs. We couldn’t buy the items we needed to send our children to school, like books, pens and school uniforms. Now the story is different. I can save money. I am benefitting from the bee farming, agricultural activities and livestock farming.” Photo: Adam Patterson/Oxfam

KNOWLEDGE IS POWER

Bangladeshi teenager Onima volunteers for an Oxfam partner organisation and is pictured here leading a hygiene promotion session for girls in Mymensingh. Having grown up in the slum, Onima was inspired to share her knowledge with others. “When I was younger, I attended sessions like these myself. That’s my inspiration. They taught me a lot and told me to share what I know.” Photo: Tom Pietrasik/Oxfam

THE RIGHT TO REFUGE

2016 was a big year for our Right To Refuge campaign, which demanded safe refuge for all those forced to flee from their homes due to violence and conflict. Below, Oxfam campaigners Claire Payne, Joanna Sammons, Marissa Ryan and Dan Byrne meet an Tánaiste, Frances Fitzgerald outside Government Buildings ahead of the UN Summit on migration: Photo: Brian Malone/Oxfam; Underneath, Oxfam campaigners Emma Barronwell, Kelly Fisher and Christine McCartney at Belfast docks to mark the huge support in Northern Ireland for the Right to Refuge campaign. Photo: Alex Clyde/Oxfam

A CUT ABOVE

Qassim Daoud’s* barber shop was looted and his home destroyed when ISIS took over Husseini in Iraq in 2014. Support from Oxfam after the village was liberated has helped him to rebuild the business. “My barber shop is a small shop but I like it. I like everything in my shop; it’s my shop, the thing that provides me with an income so I love everything about it. Thank God that Oxfam came and helped me open my shop again.” Photo: Tommy Trenchard/Oxfam *Name changed to protect identity

DAD’S ARMY

Alex Simusokwe, pictured with his daughter Ethel, is one of the men taking part in Oxfam’s ‘I Care About Her’ project in Zambia which raises awareness about issues affecting women, like gender-based violence and early marriage. “My wife recently died and now I am looking after our daughter. It is because of my love for Ethel that I am taking part in this project.” Photo: Kieran Doherty/Oxfam

REAPING THE REWARDS

Kitabe Terfe from Ethiopia’s Oromia region inspects her onion crops. She is part of an Oxfam horticulture project. “To tell the truth my status in the community was very low,” Kitabe explains. “We were poor. Since we have joined the group it has become much better. With the loan we got we have become more productive and have learned new skills. We also have food. We are not scared now – we don't have food insecurity. The biggest thing I have learned is to be fearless, and I fear nothing now.” Photo: Abbie Trayler-Smith/Oxfam

BUILDING BACK STRONGER

One of the biggest challenges communities in Nepal faced after the devastating 2015 earthquake was access to clean drinking water. Residents young and old came together in Dhading (pictured) to build a 4km pipeline supported by an Oxfam ‘cash for work’ scheme, bringing safe water to 500 local people. Photo: Kieran Doherty/Oxfam

BACK TO SCHOOL

Pupils at the Mersa school in Haiti – one of five benefitting from an Oxfam project to install toilets. Before children had to use unsafe public latrines or open spaces near the school, which posed a risk to their health and deterred many from attending lessons. Photo: Vincent Tremeau/Oxfam

CHILD’S PLAY

A girl at the Dahyet Qudsaya shelter in Damascus, Syria, takes part in a game teaching children about the importance of hygiene. Other activities organised by Oxfam include competitions, singing, drawing and theatre sessions with their favourite cartoon characters. They give children in the shelter something positive and engaging to focus on, helping them to meet new friends as well as keeping them safe from illness. Photo: Oxfam

GAME-CHANGER 

Tani (4) and Ronny (5) play ball in Eton village, Vanuatu, that was hit in 2015 by Cyclone Pam, one of the worst ever seen in the Pacific. 250,000 people faced unprecedented devastation, with many losing their homes and seeing their crops completely destroyed. Oxfam repaired the water system and distributed food, water, hygiene kits, livelihoods kits, packs of seeds and cash vouchers. Photo: Vlad Sokhin/Panos/Oxfam

SILENT NIGHT

Four-month-old Jalileh* was born en route from Afghanistan to Greece in the Iranian mountains, close to the Turkish border. Her father made the crib that she sleeps in with some metal, wires and a stitched blanket. Jalileh’s parents had to flee Afghanistan for their personal safety and the family are in the Filippiada camp in northwest Greece. Oxfam has provided toilets, showers and sinks to provide clean water. Photo: Aubrey Wade/Oxfam. *Name changed to protect identity

THANK YOU

None of the work we do could happen without your support. You helped save lives and rebuild livelihoods after natural disaster struck Nepal. You showed generosity and compassion to those affected by the fighting in Syria. You gave a voice to those affected by the migrant crisis and forced our governments to strengthen their responses. You pushed businesses and institutions to reform practices that reinforce inequality.

You shopped with us in our 46 shops throughout Ireland. You hosted your own events to raise awareness and funds. You donated to our fundraising efforts, including our Oxfam Unwrapped campaign. You supported our Even it Up campaign, to tackle the root causes of inequality.

Together we are changing lives for the better every day. Because we won’t live with poverty.

On behalf of Oxfam, Happy New Year!

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Andrew Trimble meets refugees in Tanzania: ‘They’re focusing on making each day count’

Just over a week after returning home from the Ireland rugby tour in South Africa in the summer I found myself heading back to the same continent but for very different reasons.
 
Most of the people on the flight to Tanzania were heading there to climb Mount Kilimanjaro or go on safari. I was travelling with Oxfam Ireland to meet people affected by a crisis that’s totally off the world’s radar.
 
In the past year, over 130,000 people have fled their homes in Burundi because of unrest and crossed into neighbouring Tanzania.
 
It was my first time in this kind of situation and naturally you feel a bit self conscious – a rugby player walking around a refugee camp.
 
You’re aware of how you stand out. The people in the camp were very welcoming, but probably wondering who this bloke was and why he was having his photo taken beside the water pumps and the sanitation facilities!
 
 
Oxfam Ireland ambassador Andrew Trimble at an Oxfam water treatment tank supported by Irish Aid at the Nduta refugee camp in Tanzania. Photo: Bill Marwa/Oxfam
 
Travelling through the camp, you’re very aware that everybody you see – the adults, the children, even the volunteers working with Oxfam – are refugees.
 
We heard stories of husbands and wives who got separated on the journey to safety, or ended up in different camps hours from each other and unable to reunite.
 
The two camps we visited – Nyarugusu and Nduta in the north west of Tanzania - were different to how I expected. Dry season means red dust was everywhere – and it’s still on my shoes some time later back home in Belfast.
 
There are rows and rows of tents, but there is also shade and vegetation thanks to the trees. Some people have started to plant vegetables near their tents. The trees offer important protection from the sun for the children who study at the camp’s outdoor school.
 
Others are in school buildings and we visited one where the kids seemed to be enjoying school a lot more than I used to! They were full of smiles. You got the sense that going to school was at least providing them with some normality; something familiar, even if just for a few hours each day. Their teachers are also refugees, trying to keep going; knowing that educating these children is key to their future.
 
 
Children enjoying a lesson on rugby by Oxfam Ireland ambassador Andrew Trimble at a school in the Nduta refugee camp in Tanzania. Photo: Bill Marwa/Oxfam Oxfam Ireland ambassador Andrew Trimble with Irakoze* and Zebunissa* during a rugby lesson by Andrew at a school in the Nduta refugee camp in Tanzania. Photo: Bill Marwa/Oxfam
 
With a few rugby balls brought from home, I tried to show them what rugby had to offer. It was a fun afternoon, and one brave girl put up her hand to volunteer to try to tackle me. You could almost forget that these children have witnessed harrowing things. In that moment the kids are like any other group of children – laughing, smiling and simply wanting to play.
 
But children have to grow up quickly here, like the five-year-old girl I saw carrying her baby brother, or the boy – no more than a year and a half – fetching water by himself. And that’s when it struck me, he’s the same age as my wee fella Jack, just out picking up water from the tap by himself. That’s the contrast.
 
This time last year the picture of the body of the Syrian child, Alan Kurdi who was aged three, washed up on a beach in Turkey was something that stuck with anybody who saw it. I became a father myself shortly before that so the impact was increased.
 
More recently we’ve been shocked by the photo of an injured five-year-old boy Omran Daqneesh sitting in an ambulance after an airstrike in Aleppo, Syria. It shows you the level of desperation for people coming from countries where they just need to get out of there.
 
We visited a children’s centre, a place where kids can come and play in safety. They were putting on a play about going to the toilet, as part of an Oxfam project to teach children about staying safe and healthy. It was very funny but with a serious message – diseases like cholera are a real threat in crowded camps so the children need to learn about washing their hands.
 
Their parents welcomed us into the humble tents they call home. They smiled too, but there was a sadness there too.
 
I try to picture what it would be like to leave my house and run for my life, and what I would need to do to keep my family safe.
 
 
Burundian refugees Belange Mugisha* with her one-year-old son Remy Habonimana and husband Habonimana Christophe* meet Oxfam Ireland ambassador Andrew Trimble outside the tent they now call home in the Nduta camp in Tanzania. Asked why they fled Burundi, Habonimana* says: “I was hunted.” The life they had hoped for has not come to pass and it seems like everything is on hold. “Sometimes I feel bad, like crying, when I think of how I couldn’t complete my education,” he says. Yet despite the challenges, they are trying to make the most of their situation. Habonimana* is really passionate about making things better for everyone living in the camp, and has been voted as a community leader for one of the zones. He also works with Oxfam as a community hygiene promoter, while Belange* has a job in one of the camp’s schools.” Photo: Bill Marwa/Oxfam
 
One of the refugees I met was Habonimana Christophe*. He’s 31 like me, and is also married and the proud dad of a one-year-old boy called Remy Habonimana. He showed us inside his tent. He opened up to me about his journey from Burundi and why he had to leave. “I was hunted,” he told me.
 
This is actually his second time living the in the Nduta camp. He arrived here as a child in 1993 with his family and lived there until 2008. Habonimana found himself back in the Nduta camp this time with his wife and child in November 2015.
 
“This is the first time for my wife to be a refugee,” he says. “It wasn’t easy for her.”
 
Habonimana is really passionate about making things better for everyone living in the camp, and has been voted as a community leader for one of the zones, volunteering his time. He also works with Oxfam as a community hygiene promoter, while his wife has a job in one of the camp’s schools.
 
Both Habonimana and his wife have diplomas in language studies. He was planning on graduating with a degree at university in Burundi before life changed so radically. 
 
The life he hoped for has not come to pass. Everything is on hold.
 
“Sometimes I feel bad, like crying, when I think of how I couldn’t complete my education,” he says. Inside his tent are his certificates.
 
“Whenever I chat with relatives and friends that are in other countries and in universities, I feel bad as my life has already bust as I have my certificate that allows me to go to university. But I will live here for the rest of my life.”
 
Yet he’s focusing on making each day count – and I am in awe of how he and his wife have managed – coming here under pressure and raising a child.
 
That spirit and determination to keep going despite the odds was something I felt throughout the camp.
 
I met a group of men and women who had been tailors in Burundi. They got together in the camp with the idea of starting a business together. Oxfam provided them with machinery, equipment and a building.
 
 
Rugby player and Oxfam Ireland ambassador Andrew Trimble tries on a handmade jacket which fits his shoulders but not quite his arms during a visit to a tailors’ workshop set up by Burundian refugees with the support of Oxfam at the Nyarugusu refugee camp in Tanzania. Photo: Mary Mndeme/Oxfam
 
With the old school Singer sowing machines and fabrics in almost every colour under the sun, they were so passionate about their work. The tailors told me that they are hoping lights can be installed in their workshop so as they can work even longer hours.
 
They hadn’t heard of rugby – but they all knew about football. One of the tailors asked if I was wealthy like David Beckham, perhaps hoping I might be in the market for a wardrobe like his!
 
Listening to how people’s lives changed so utterly because of the war made me think about the choices ahead of me when the time comes to retire from rugby. I’m so fortunate to have options. I can’t imagine what it must be like to be stuck on pause, with no idea of if or when your life will begin again.
 
I’m well used to training for the physical strength and stamina needed for rugby, but that’s surpassed by the mental fortitude and resilience shown by the people I met –people just like you and me, but thrown into an extraordinary situation, not of their own making.
 
People with hopes and dreams just like ours, looking for safety and security for their families and kids, a job, a home, a future.
 
It also made me think about our responsibilities towards helping refugees. The one greeting I heard over and over again wherever we went was ‘karibu’, which means welcome. This attitude towards welcoming strangers helps explain why Tanzania has become a safe haven for refugees fleeing Burundi.
 
It’s incredible to think that this developing country, where there is still widespread poverty, has opened its doors to refugees.
 
This is despite the challenges it faces. During the long journey on dirt roads, I saw children walk barefoot, women walking for miles to fetch water and men pushing bicycles up hills laden with heavy loads. Despite this, Tanzania has welcomed refugees for decades – many of the people I met were actually refugees twice over.
 
You hear it time and again, but it’s truly an eye-opening experience to do a trip like this. When you come back home, you think about everything you take for granted. Simple things, like being able to turn on a tap to get clean water or have electricity and heat at the flick of a switch. Also the freedom to move about, to have a home, to work and to be with your loved ones.
 
The work I saw by Oxfam is genuinely saving and changing lives. It is a strange feeling to be temporarily planted into a world so alien; to have strangers who have lost everything smile at you and tell their life story, and young children whose futures are so uncertain put on an incredible performance of song and dance to welcome us visitors from Oxfam Ireland.
 
But perhaps the strangest feeling of all was to stand in a place of such sadness and find myself so inspired.
 
Andrew Trimble is an Oxfam Ireland ambassador.  

 

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