Time is the most precious gift of all: Meet some of our inspiring volunteers

For over 50 years, Oxfam Ireland has had the pleasure of hosting countless generous and giving volunteers who put their heart and soul into contributing in a positive way to their local community, their local Oxfam and further afield. These volunteers give the most precious gift of all - their time, to give back to their community and to help organisations like Oxfam Ireland run smoothly and raise money to run life-saving programmes to help vulnerable people in poverty. The funds raised from our shops help to implement Oxfam initiatives such as providing clean water and sanitation in refugee camps and helping to protect and empower women farmers in Tanzania through our livelihoods programme. 

Our Oxfam volunteers are at the heart of our organisation and without their time, effort and selfless generosity, our organisation would not run as effectively as it does, providing essential aid to those who need it. 

Oxfam wants to highlight some of the volunteers who are part of our Oxfam family, striving to make the world a more just and fair place. Here are the faces of some of our volunteers, who have kindly shared their stories. We hope that you can see a little bit of yourself in each and every one of them.

Zahid, a volunteer at Oxfam Home on King’s Inn Street, Dublin on coming full circle with Oxfam

Zahid has become part of the furniture at Oxfam Home on King’s Inn Street, having given five years of hard work and dedication as a volunteer. Photo: Maria Gillan

Zahid, a student at the IBEC College in Temple Bar comes from Bangladesh and describes himself as a conscientious person. He previously worked with Oxfam, volunteering to help distribute life-saving emergency aid provided by Oxfam in Bangladesh after his country was affected by natural disasters.

Zahid says: “If a big flood happens then people lose their homes, they lose everything, they don’t have any money to buy food. They don’t have any place to stay so we help them by giving them shelter and by providing some food, or whatever else they need.”

Having previously worked with Oxfam in his home country, Zahid was motivated to continue working with the organisation when he first came to Dublin, and he has come full circle in terms of seeing how Oxfam provides life-saving aid to those in need. Zahid has now been working in the furniture shop on King’s Inn shop for 5 years from the first day the shop opened.

”I like talking and communicating with people and asking them about their lives. It’s like a daily routine for me. I like how every day is like a new start, different things happen every day.”

Zahid is not just a volunteer with Oxfam but volunteers with Saint Vincent de Paul too. “I love to have a chat with the local people, and ask about their daily routine,” he says. “It’s nice to see that you know all the Finglas local people and the customers at King’s Inn Street too. They really love me. They know which days I am working and if they don’t see me they keep asking, ‘Where is he, where is he?’” he laughs.

Zahid’s conscientious and generous spirit is not only seen by the customers in the shops that he meets daily but by his own friends and family too: “If any of my friends asks for help, if I’m able to do it, I just do it straight away. If I am able to do what you ask of me, then I can never say no, I can do it for you. I like to help others - you can say it’s a part of my character.”

Emmet James Driver: A volunteer campaigner on behalf of refugees

Emmet, volunteering on behalf of Oxfam’s Right to Refuge campaign at Longitude festival in Marlay Park. Photo: Maria Gillan

Emmet shared his story about how he became a volunteer campaigner with Oxfam Ireland and the importance of changing negative mind-sets surrounding refugees. 

Emmet’s campaigning role began when he was walking down the street one day and was approached by an Oxfam campaigner named Shazia who asked him to sign a petition. As he walked on by in a hurry, she called out: “It’s just a petition and it’s just about equality!” After hearing about the petition, he immediately signed up and when he received a follow up phone call to ask if he could become a regular supporter, he said: 

“Look, guys, I don’t have any money…but I’ve got lots of time. Do you want some time?”

When asked if he would be interested in supporting Oxfam’s Right to Refuge campaign, calling on the Irish Government to do more to protect and support refugees, Emmet replied: “Absolutely, yes I would”.

Emmet’s passion and commitment to campaigning on the refugee crisis comes from a personal story of his own:

“When I was in college I had a friend who was Palestinian who was seeking asylum here in Ireland, and he was seeking asylum for two and a half years and was denied. And then he was ordered to be deported. At that point I was so unbelievably angry because, as Irish people, we have travelled to every single corner of this planet over the last seven hundred years and every single place we went we were accepted and every single place we still go to now, people are proud to say ‘I have Irish blood’.

“In Ireland, I believe we have a sort of genetic memory of the hardships of our past. What’s frustrating is that we are not taking in as many refugees as we can, and when we do take people in, we put them into a completely inadequate situation which is Direct Provision. Then when it comes to people seeking asylum, there’s a massive long list of people and they are not allowed to work and they’re not allowed to do anything while they are seeking asylum and then they can still be denied and then deported.”

Emmet strongly believes that due to our own personal history of emigration on this island we have a responsibility to help those in need, bringing to mind a famous quote displayed on the Statue of Liberty: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses”.

“That is what Ireland should be, because we did just that. We did it for years, even centuries, Irish people travelling abroad and we owe it to the world to offer that back. We should take people in, give them a home and be friendly to them, and welcome them into our society and into our culture as well. Anytime, I see that not happening, I get very, very passionate and I get very, very angry. Which is why, when I heard about the Right to Refuge campaign I said yes. We have to do more, to lobby our governments to provide refugees with a safe place to call home, and that’s what this campaign is about and this is what volunteering is about.”

Emmet remarks that one of the most rewarding parts of his role is when you change someone’s mind-set or when people realise the importance of the work that volunteers do:

“You’ll thank a person for signing the petition and they’ll look you in the eye and they’ll say, “No, thank YOU - you are the one doing the work.

“I find that every single person out there has the ability within them to understand the issues we’re talking about, they just have to relate it back to something they are familiar with, back to something that they can understand. And then it suddenly dawns on them that these refugees aren’t these foreign figures, they are human beings and we should give them a place to live and feel safe.”

Alex Clyde, a volunteer in Oxfam’s Belfast office on embracing opportunities

Alex is pictured at Oxfam’s office in Belfast where she volunteered as a Campaigns and Advocacy Assistant. Photo: Maria Gillan

Alex volunteered as a Campaigns and Advocacy Assistant, working in Oxfam’s office in Belfast. She first became interested in volunteering with Oxfam while pursuing her Master’s Degree in Peace and Conflict Studies at Magee University in Derry and wanted to gain work experience in the charity sector:

“Finding work in the charity sector is not easy. But I became interested in working with Oxfam as Oxfam create campaigns, not just to raise money but to actually do something to create real change to benefit those that need it. Oxfam provided me with the chance to gain work experience for a full year and I was interested in getting experience in events management and the campaigns and advocacy side of Oxfam’s work.

“I got to organise events like Culture Night, getting people involved in events, sorting out insurance matters, alongside communications work. I learned loads, it’s hectic but it’s so much fun.”

Alongside her work with Oxfam, Alex volunteers with local charities that benefit refugees, and stresses the importance of welcoming refugees into our communities:

“I believe reintegration for refugees into communities is so important and so I also do work with other organisations who deal with this. Refugees only survive on about £30 a week here, with full families living on that little per week. 

“I’ve sat down with refugees and heard their stories, some of them can be heart-breaking and make you realise the little things we take for granted. Something as simple as a guy that I was talking to from Sri Lanka whose child wanted to go swimming and he finds it hard because he can’t send his child to the swimming pool. This is because they barely have enough to feed themselves, let alone afford those activities.”

Having worked with organisations that deal directly with refugees, Alex has had first-hand accounts of refugees’ individual experiences since leaving their home countries and settling into their new home in Northern Ireland:

“I think that doing the simple things with people, like taking them out for a coffee, the little things, really welcome them into the country. They are going to settle into a really different culture so it’s so important for us to welcome them as best as we can. Going to events are great to let them know you are there but they really need the day to day interaction, asking how they are doing and so on.”

Outside of her role at Oxfam, Alex’s work and research involves dealing with the mental health issues refugees experience, especially in relation to Post-traumatic Stress Disorder and living in conflict:

“Imagine fleeing conflict and dealing with the trauma of it, then moving to another country and feeling like an outcast, it can be so damaging for them. Volunteering or having a job enables you to make friends, to get to know people, have a real purpose and create a real identity. So I think working in a volunteer capacity can be great for refugees too.”

Having worked with many local organisations, Alex knows the value of volunteering:

“With volunteering, I really feel like I’m giving back. I mean, we’re really lucky. I really recognise this, especially as a woman. I can go to school to get a full education, I can wear trousers, I can drive a car. There’s just so many things that we can do that others can’t. I have so much going for me that I feel it’s important to provide other people with that opportunity and I would definitely encourage more people to volunteer. I think that all graduates of Social Science should be made to take a year out and do something like volunteer, (such as with Oxfam!), or helping out in a foreign country. It really gives you a different perspective on the world and makes you more open-minded.”

Family matters: Chloe and Johnnie Chu, volunteers at Oxfam Books in Dublin

Siblings Chloe and Johnnie pose in front of the wide range of books available in Oxfam Books on Parliament Street shop in Dublin. Photo: Maria Gillan

Chloe and Johnnie from Dublin are brother and sister and have been dedicated volunteers in Oxfam Books on Parliament Street for a number of years. Johnnie was the first member of his family to volunteer his time with Oxfam and after seeing how much her brother enjoyed his time there, Chloe started volunteering for a few hours once a week, to give something back: 

“A normal work shift is about four hours,” says Chloe. “But I always wish it could be longer because it is amazing to see so many people of all ages take an interest in books and helping charity.” 

Chloe and Johnnie both love books and love meeting the interesting customers who visit the shop, as well as immersing themselves in the extensive range of unique books that can be found there. 

Chloe and Johnnie aren’t the only members of the Chu family who selflessly give their time to volunteer with Oxfam. When Chloe’s older sister moved to England she also volunteered with Oxfam over there too.

“There is a running joke in the family that our younger sister is going to start working here too,” laughs Johnnie. “That would make it four members of the family who volunteer with Oxfam!”

Chloe adds: “The main reason why I volunteer is because I love the idea that I am helping someone and that makes me really happy. And with every book donated or sold, that means I’ve done a successful job and we’ve all made a joint effort to help people in need – and that is what’s important.”

50 years of commitment: Kay Rogers, former Oxfam Ireland Board member and volunteer in the Belfast office

Kay stands beside a picture displaying Oxfam’s message of ‘Hope’, a message that Oxfam’s programmes strive to provide to people in need. Photo: Maria Gillan 

If there’s one lady who can be given a badge for dedication and long-term support for Oxfam’s work, it’s Kay Rogers. Kay has been an irreplaceable volunteer with Oxfam for almost 50 years and is a prime example of someone who displays real selflessness and commitment to helping those less fortunate. She is also responsible for helping to develop Oxfam’s first presence in Northern Ireland and has served in countless ways: as a volunteer Board member, a shop volunteer, an office intern, a spokesperson and a fundraiser.  

One of the best experiences that Kay has had was a trip to Tanzania to see the work that Oxfam does there and the impact it was having on the lives of people living in poverty:

“I was lucky enough to go on a week-long trip to Tanzania with Oxfam, where we visited many types of projects with small farmers. For example, we visited Kiwokukie, which was a women’s organisation that was founded by women in response to the HIV and AIDS crisis at that time. We also visited a small-scale farmer’s organisation too, where I got to see the positive impact that Oxfam initiatives have had first-hand. And it’s extraordinary, you know, for me, being an old luddite who rages against technology, to see how actually providing small-scale farmers with a mobile phone meant that they could find out the price of produce that day so they knew whether or not it was worth their while hauling their produce on a bicycle into the market or if they were going to be ripped off by traders. So if they knew they were going to get a decent price, it was worth their while going.

“I could see the benefits of these simple things first-hand. I could see progress. I saw the impact our work truly has.”

In the 50 years that Kay has been involved in Oxfam, she has seen it grow and evolve, alongside raising her family and working as a nurse in her community: “A few years ago, I was thinking of giving up as I had other important commitments and a friend of mine said to me, you’ll never do that because Oxfam runs through your veins.”

Kay understand the importance of volunteers and that’s why she has enjoyed the work she has done lately in the office which is about recognition and awards for volunteers, many of whom have been working in Oxfam shops for 20 or more years. 

“Volunteers give a gift of time and I think that just summarises it. They give the gift of their time and in return for that they need to have recognition, they need to have people say thank you. Volunteering is an opportunity to give something back to your community and you get something in return also – a new batch of friends, something positive to keep you busy, while also raising money for projects in the developing world.”

Philip O’Brien, a volunteer at Oxfam Portlaoise, on the importance of giving back

Philip, sits by the till in Oxfam’s shop in Portlaoise, where he serves customers each day. Photo: Maria Gillan

Philip was a mechanical engineer by trade, working for almost 40 years. However finding out he had cancer changed his outlook on life: “After getting over the cancer, my attitude became more positive. And it was my positive attitude that helped me get through it. I learned not to take life so seriously, and I now appreciate life so much more. I need to have a laugh so working here is great for me - we have great fun.”

“I enjoy meeting people and giving back to society. And after nearly dying, it made me realise to live for the moment and want to give back in some way. Going from working all my life to not working was a big adjustment, especially for my brain to handle.

“I don’t take life for granted in any way anymore. I’ve learned not to jump into situations too quickly and rush myself. Laughter is the best medicine. I’m a messer, I love to have the craic with people who come in to the shop.”

Volunteering with Oxfam has helped Philip to remain positive and make a difference in his community:

“I intend to work at the Oxfam Portlaoise shop for as long as possible,” he says. “Volunteering is positive for your mental state and a great way to pass the time while helping those who need it.”

Oxfam has many exciting opportunities for people who would like to make a difference and join a global movement of people who won’t live with poverty. If you would like to volunteer or find out more information on volunteering, click here.

Maria Gillan, author of this post, volunteered her time and talent to Oxfam Ireland to collate these stories as part of her university studies. We’re grateful for the energy and enthusiasm she gave to highlighting the names, faces and stories of some of our wonderful volunteers.





The face of famine and hunger: ‘I give them tea and water to fill their stomachs’

At a site for displaced people in Pulka, northeast Nigeria, families arrive daily seeking safety, shelter, food, and clean water. 

Numbers tell only part of the story. Behind the statistics lies the anguish of parents struggling to keep their families alive.

Across Africa and in parts of the southern Arabian Peninsula a massive hunger crisis is threatening the lives of 30 million people. Some of them in an area of South Sudan are already enduring famine conditions.

Photo: Tom Saater/Oxfam

The scale of this disaster is shocking. But numbers have a way of numbing us. They can be too massive to personalise—until you listen to the stark words of a father unable to earn enough to feed his family or hear the anguish of a mother too hungry herself to produce milk for her newborn. With stories, statistics hit home.

In the photo essay below, you’ll meet some of the people struggling to survive the conflicts, drought, and terrible hunger crisis those events have triggered.


Photo: Omar Algunaid/Oxfam

Fekri, 40, pictured here with an Oxfam-supplied hygiene kit, is a father of four living in Al-Jalilah, Yemen. “Life is difficult these days,” he says. “We cannot afford all the essential items. More than half of our money is spent on water.” 

Ahmed and Dolah

Photo: Moayed Al Shaibani/Oxfam

Ahmed, 45, and Dolah, 40, live in Khamer City, Yemen, with their eight children. Their sole source of income is Ahmed’s cobbling, but most days, he returns from the market empty-handed. Dolah goes begging at the market, hoping to collect some money or bread for the children, but she’s usually faced with verbal harassment. They hope that the war will end soon so that their children can sleep safely, free of hunger. 


Photo: Bruno Bierrenbach Feder

Majok is waiting to register for a World Food Programme distribution later in the month. He is one of hundreds of people moving from the islands to the mainland in Nyal, South Sudan, in search of food and safety. Younger family members had to help carry him during the one-and-a-half-hour trek through the swamps to make sure he was physically present for registration. 


Photo: Petterik Wiggers/Oxfam

Eighteen days before this photo of Deqa was taken in Somaliland in northern Somalia, she gave birth to her sixth child, a son who has been experiencing stomach troubles. At the moment, Daqa, who is 26, is on her own: Her husband is away tending to a goat and the single camel they have left from their herd of 200. “We eat once a day—only rice,” she said. It’s not nearly enough to meet the needs of her growing children. “I give them tea and water to fill their stomachs,” Deqa added.


Photo:Petterik Wiggers/Oxfam

“Water is our main worry,” said Adan, a 58-year-old herder who has resettled in the Garadag district of Somaliland in northern Somalia with his five children. The family has moved many times in the past six months in a constant search for water. “We came here because we wanted to be closer to a water point, but the women have just got back and the water they collected is so hard and salty that we cannot even use it to dissolve milk powder. We cannot give milk to our children,” he said.


Photo: Pablo Tosco/Oxfam

When Boko Haram attacked her village in Nigeria during a wedding—taking the bride and other women—Yana, 27, fled with her four children. She now lives in the Kawar Mali ward in Maidiguiri, once the epicentre of the Boko Haram insurgency before the army expelled the group. Today, thousands of people displaced by the violence have found refuge in the area.

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.

Smart phones open up a new world in remote Tanzania

It’s 3am. My alarm goes off. I’m tempted to hit snooze but the feeling that I might miss a flight hits me. I quickly jump out of bed. I get ready and grab a taxi to the airport. I will be away from my house for three weeks…

Hi, nice to meet you. I’m Bill Marwa, a digital media coordinator with Oxfam in Tanzania. Pardon me – I should have started with the introductions. I will be writing about my work with Oxfam and how that is helping change people’s lives. I travel a lot so there’s always going to be something new. I want to show you my beautiful country, the people, our culture, and our foods.

Me - nice to meet you!

Me and a colleague of mine, Kefar, are heading to Kahama in northwestern Tanzania. We are going to train 22 activists to use smart phones to interview other residents in their villages about what information is important to them, how they can access it and how local government can be more transparent. After three days of training, they will go back to their wards and interview at least 60 people each. Their responses are automatically sent to us, which makes this a very quick and easy way to gather responses from more than 1,200 people. It’s going to be interesting.

We land in Mwanza and spend a night there before driving to Kahama. This is about a five-hour drive. We are chatting in the car and listening to loads of Bongo Flava – Tanzanian music.

Kefar will train the activists on an initiative to make local government more transparent called the Open Government Partnerships. I will train them on how to use smart phones and particularly how to collect data using an app called Mobenzi.

My colleague Kefar asking how many people had used a smart phone before

Kefar asks how many of the activists have used a smart phone before. Only four people out of the 22 participants raise their hands. This hits me, but equally motivates me. I will have to change my strategy to start with basic things like how to scroll through pages, search, etc before we move on to the Mobenzi tool itself. It’s going to be fine, I say to myself.

We do a quick Google search for ‘Mbogwe’ district, and the activists are excited with the results. Realising that they can do a lot with search, most of them will be glued to their phones for the next hour doing different searches. I walk out for a cup of coffee. When I get back to the room one of the activists, Gabriel, is playing a speech by one of the prominent members of parliament to the rest of the room. I say to myself, what have I got these people into?

After three days, everyone is confident to use the phones and they all have understood the questions. We distribute the smart phones and the activists go back to their villages to begin the data collection.

Me and Kefar are hopeful that the activists will get on with the new technology and that responses will start flowing in soon. In my next post I’ll let you know how they get on…



This blog was originally published on Broad Street. To read other blog posts by Bill Marwa and go behind-the-scenes with other Oxfam staff around the world, please visit: http://oxfamblogs.org/broadstreet/

Behind the five million ‘Syrian refugee’ tags are individual stories of love, loss, and hope

A smile lights up her honey-colored eyes. Delicate gold droplets dangle from her small ears. Her name—Warda—means rose in Arabic. She could have been a carefree 18-year-old law student in London, an aspiring actress in Paris, or a trendy blogger in NYC.

Instead, Warda lives in a tent in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley. She is pregnant with her second child and lives with her 23-year-old husband Hassan. Warda is dressed in black from head to toe, in mourning for her mother who was killed 10 days ago in Homs when a missile flattened the family home. Her earrings are her last personal belonging.

Behind her smile is a storm of grief, questions and hopes that never let up. The young woman is one of five million Syrians who have fled their war-torn country and are registered as refugees in Syria’s neighboring countries—a number that is more than the population of Ireland. Half of the pre-war population of 22 million has been uprooted. A quarter has crossed borders in search for safety. Warda was 13 when she left her home area in Homs governorate. She has not seen her father since.

“Last time I saw my mother, she came to spend a month. But she left before my first child was born,” says Warda, scrolling through photos on her mobile phone. She shows me a picture of her mother Hanane, beaming as she stands next to her on her wedding day. Warda was dressed in white, her hair in an elaborate up-do, her eyes lined with kohl. “We got married here in the camp. There was dancing and singing. Life has to go on,” she says.

But her life is anything but normal. Her son Jaafar is now 13 months old. Like so many Syrian children born in Lebanon, he has no official papers, and hence no nationality. Jaafar is neither Syrian nor Lebanese. Would his own country even allow him back in after the war?

The lack of documentation for newborns resulting from the amount and cost of red tape is one of many challenges Syrian refugees face in neighboring countries such as Lebanon. They have little-to-no access to the job market, they contract debts to complement the little humanitarian aid they receive, they don’t have full access to education, and they live with the constant fear of deportation.

Yet those who have turned towards rich third countries have either found closed doors when they attempted to travel, or have risked their lives on rickety boats to reach the shores of Europe. Five million refugees now live in limbo, waiting for an elusive peace to go back home or for an improbable plane ticket to Europe or North America. That’s half a million people spread across dozens of cities around the world. In Lebanon, one in five inhabitants is now a refugee.

Not far from Warda’s tent, in another informal settlement built on privately-owned agricultural land, Abou Imad, 53, sips tea while waiting for the young men and women of his family to come back from a day in the fields. Bent in two under the baking sun, they would have harvested onions or planted potatoes for less than $10 per day. Next to him, his two youngest girls sit quietly. Though they had a spot in the local school—the Lebanese government having opened public schools to around half of the Syrian children—they stopped going because their father can’t afford the bus ride. “What will happen to this generation?” he asks. “That’s what worries me most. They are growing up to be illiterate. We, the older generation, have nothing left to lose. But them?”

Abou Imad thought he had seen it all. A soldier in the Syrian army that fought in the Lebanon civil war (1975-1990), he went on to become a truck driver criss-crossing the Middle East and delivering goods to US-occupied Iraq in 2004. In 2010, he settled in his hometown of Raqqa, but little did he know that the terrorist group ISIS would drive him out of what became a few years later the heart of its self-proclaimed caliphate in Syria.

“Look at this woman. Dressed like this, she would not have been able to stick her head out of the door. They would have killed her,” he says pointing to his new daughter-in-law, Ahlam, which means dreams in Arabic. A fresh-faced, raven-haired young Syrian woman wearing a red dress, she left Raqqa a few months ago. She took a perilous journey through Iraq and Jordan to reach Lebanon and marry Abou Imad’s son. Now a refugee, she has been embraced by her new family, and can live without the threat of extremism.

But Abou Imad’s heart stayed in Syria and he wants to see his homeland even just one last time. “You see how big the ocean is? Even the smallest fish, after travelling far and wide, will come back to rest under that same rock it was born under.”

The names in this story have been changed to protect the security of the individuals.

We are providing lifesaving aid to displaced people in the Middle East, and we’re helping families meet some of their basic needs as they travel beyond the region to seek safety.

The entry posted by Joelle Bassoul (@JoBassoul), Oxfam Media advisor, Syria Response, on 3 April 2017.

Photo: Warda, with her child Jaafar and husband Hassan, lives in a tent in Lebanon's Bekaa Valley after leaving her home in Syria. Credit: Joelle Bassoul/Oxfam

Right to Refuge - Speak Out, Save Lives

More than half the world's refugees are children, many of them separated from their families as they flee poverty, war and persecution. But needlessly strict laws in the UK mean that many are prevented from joining their parents, brothers, sisters or children.
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Right to Refuge: Speak Out, Save Lives

Dear Taoiseach, I support the Right to Refuge for all people fleeing conflict and persecution. I call on the Irish government to do more to protect refugees by sharing responsibility with other world leaders and finding solutions for the millions of people currently displaced.  These people need protection, dignity and solidarity and the time to act is now.  I urge you to defend and uphold refugees’ rights during the negotiations of the UN Global Compacts and at the Summit in September 2018. Ireland must be a champion and speak out to save lives.

1,735 of 5,000 signed up

Act Now: Keep Families Together

Families fleeing war, persecution and disaster are being torn apart. Relatives are being separated and trapped in different countries while seeking safety, many don’t even know if family members left behind will be able to escape. Thousands of these people are children, in fact, over 90,000 children travelling alone without parents or guardians sought asylum in Europe in 2015.

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

How pineapples are lifting a community out of poverty in Rwanda

Initiatives like the Tazamurance co-operative in Rwanda give female farmers financial independence and optimism for the future.

There was a time when women in Rwanda reaped few rewards from farming – even though they did most of the work. Over the years, however, your support has lifted some of these women out of poverty and given them the incentive to keep growing.

One Rwandan success story is the Tuzamurane Co-operative, which specialises in pineapple farming. Tuzamurane, which means ‘lift up one another’, was set up ten years ago to give female farmers horticultural skills and access to markets and savings schemes.

Valerie Mukangerero’s life has turned around since she joined the co-operative six years ago. Before that, she couldn’t afford to buy a pineapple. Now, though, Valerie (53, pictured below), is earning enough to support her family.

“I had five children plus my husband and me,” says Valerie. “We had limited resources; it was difficult getting enough food.”

Valerie Mukangerero, Rwanda

Valerie Mukangerero walks to her pineapple farm in Rwamurema village in eastern Rwanda. Photo: Aurelie Marrier d'Unienville/Oxfam

All she could buy from the 1,000RWF (€1.15/£0.97) she used to make from selling her old crops (beans, cassava and sweet potatoes) was salt, and kerosene for her lamp. There was nothing left for her family.

“Then I would go back home feeling sad, regretful and saying, ‘I could have bought such and such’, but because of lack of resources, I did not buy it. I wanted to buy fabric, a skirt, shoes; the children at home also needed clothes.

“Then came Mutuelle (health insurance). It was difficult for me to pay for the health insurance. To get treated at the hospital, every child has to pay 3,000 RWF (€3.45/£2.92).”

Paying for healthcare meant Valerie was forced to cut her food bills: “There was a time when they [her family] were hungry. They did not have breakfast and I had to look hard to get lunch for them. I felt sad because when you see a hungry child in your eyes, how can you be happy?”

As soon as she joined the co-operative, however, Valerie realised that things would improve.

“At the first harvest, I earned a little money and I bought small pieces of land. Each time I got 10,000 RWF (€11.45/£9.71), I could buy a few metres and so on. All of my land is a result of the co-operative.”

“I have also built my house. I used to have a small house. After getting money, I added extra rooms and extended it,” says Valerie, who also bought a cow from her earnings.

These days, when Valerie wants to buy something, she does just that: “What makes me proud in life is when I buy clothes or food when my children need it and when I can afford school uniforms without worrying.”

But Valerie’s ambition doesn’t end there – she wants to buy even more land and keep her children in school. With your continued support, she says, life will get even better.

Tuzamurane Co-operative memebers, Rwanda

Theresie Nyirantozi, Valerie Mukangerero, Christine Bangiwiha, Josepha Ayinkamiye and Mukeshimana Leocadie from the Tuzamurane Co-operative. Photo: Aurelie Marrier d'Unienville/Oxfam

Thank you for helping initiatives like the Tuzamurane Co-operative which give female farmers like Valerie financial independence and optimism for the future.

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