A mes­sage to the peo­ple of Fin­gal from the CEO of Con­cern World­wide

Fingal Independent - - COMMUNITY NEWS -

IT’S been 50 years since the hor­ror of star­va­tion in Bi­afra played nightly across black and white tele­vi­sions in Ire­land. Fifty years since an or­di­nary Dublin cou­ple, John and Kay O’lough­lin Kennedy, started ‘Africa Con­cern’ in their liv­ing room and, in do­ing so, de­fied the odds to make a dif­fer­ence.

1968 was a very dif­fer­ent time in Ire­land, when only the church or state man­aged any­thing of scale and yet, de­spite hav­ing no ex­pe­ri­ence, John and Kay mounted a fundrais­ing cam­paign that went on to raise the equiv­a­lent of €60 mil­lion.

That money chan­neled des­per­ately needed re­lief sup­plies into the ex­pe­ri­enced and strong hands of those on the ground, peo­ple like Aen­gus and Jack Fin­u­cane whose courage and lead­er­ship went on to shape and build the or­gan­i­sa­tion.

What John and Kay man­aged to do, and what the Fin­u­cane broth­ers con­tin­ued to do, was to tap into the con­science and gen­eros­ity of a na­tion that it­self had ex­pe­ri­enced the bru­tal­ity of star­va­tion and con­flict. Their ap­proach marked a move to­wards a modern Ir­ish hu­man­i­tar­ian re­sponse, bring­ing to­gether pub­lic sup­port and on-the-ground re­sponse and re­cov­ery, paired with a re­lent­less fo­cus on the poor­est and hard­est to reach.

To this day, it is the cor­ner­stone of Con­cern’s work and it is what I learned when I joined back in 1982. It is why I ended up in some of the tough­est, most chal­leng­ing con­texts in the world in­clud­ing Kosovo, Dar­fur, Rwanda and many more. In ev­ery one of these places, I have snap­shots of peo­ple, faces and mo­ments of time that sum up both the hor­ror and hu­man­ity of war.

Peo­ple like the in­cred­i­ble Martha, who I met in South Su­dan. One of two mil­lion peo­ple driven from her home by the bru­tal con­flict, Martha ar­rived at the Con­cern cen­tre with her se­verely mal­nour­ished child. With the help of our lo­cal staff, her youngest was healthy within weeks. Martha went on to study at night, tak­ing all the train­ing avail­able, and is now help­ing to run the cen­tre.

I was there at a great time. A peace agree­ment was in place and Martha and the team were able to leave the camp and join Con­cern’s 50th party. Look­ing ra­di­ant in a long red sparkling dress, that evening she danced for the first time in years.

These are the peo­ple you take with you, that in­spire you. And to­day we need that in­spi­ra­tion. In this, our 50th year, we are call­ing for a resur­gence of hu­man­ity - one that chal­lenges the pol­i­tics of iso­la­tion­ism, of in­dif­fer­ence and in­tol­er­ance.

Hu­man­i­tar­ian aid at its best em­bod­ies a very hu­man re­sponse of love and care, a force for good against the cru­elty and dev­as­ta­tion of war and dis­as­ters. The most pow­er­ful re­minder of this force is the tes­ti­mony of those who have re­ceived aid, re­cov­ered and re­built their lives and also, the peo­ple who have con­trib­uted to mak­ing that pos­si­ble.

These in­clude the thou­sands across ev­ery com­mu­nity in Ire­land who sup­port our work and peo­ple like Uzo, a keen run­ner, who ran the Dublin Marathon for Con­cern in 2018. Uzo’s fam­ily orig­i­nally came from Bi­afra and it struck me as a great ex­am­ple of the gen­er­a­tional jour­ney that Con­cern and Ire­land have gone through.

Like John and Kay in 1968, and ev­ery per­son who has sup­ported us this year and through­out the last half cen­tury, Uzo was tak­ing a stand against in­dif­fer­ence.

This year has brought home to me just how im­por­tant our val­ues are, val­ues which are rooted in the Ir­ish ex­pe­ri­ence. They have im­bued us with a com­pas­sion and a con­fi­dence that oth­ers can over­come the scourge of con­flict, hunger and poverty. 50 years ago, we be­lieved we could change the world. We still do. Thank you.

Con­cern chief ex­ec­u­tive, Do­minic Mcsor­ley.

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