Hello readers! I returned from Ireland in the beginning of July and have been bursting with stories to tell. Here are a few highlights of the wonderful people I was able to connect with in Ireland, all due to this amazing tool we call the internet.
Alessandra Pigni, Founder of Mindfulness for NGOs
Alessandra came up from Oxford for the Peace Bridge celebration and I was happy to share a drink with her in the “Bulls&%$ Corner” of Badger’s in Derry. Alessandra is a psychologist by training, and a visionary by heart. After serving with MSF in the OPT and China, Alessandra started to think about how self-care tools could help aid workers, who often do not get the support they need yet who are continually experiencing difficult and traumatic experiences in the field. This led her to partner with The Oxford Mindfulness Center of Oxford University to found Mindfulness for NGOs. She was recently interviewed by the BBC for a series in production preliminarily entitled, “Does charity work?” and is currently working on a white paper that discusses how humanitarian organizations need to consider staff pre-departure psychological awareness, stress reduction, burnout prevention and resilience training, plus field-based support from independent professionals, as key elements of a staff retention policy and a cost-effective option for HR departments.
Richard Moore, Founder of Children in Crossfire
Despite only getting to bed at 3am after the Peace Bridge festivities, Richard Moore managed to join me for breakfast in Derry after his organization, Children in Crossfire, had a midnight march across the bridge to raise awareness about their work in Africa. My conversation with Richard was truly one of the highlights of my trip. Among many other things, Richard and I discussed the value of community, the challenges of transforming people’s mindsets from charity to justice, and the power of vulnerability, more of which will be forthcoming in an upcoming blog post. A little teaser: “We’ve got to stop associating needing help as a failure.”
This video helps to tell Richard’s story:
Hans Zomer, Director of Dóchas Network
I had the pleasure of meeting Hans Zomer and other Dóchas Network staff at their offices by St. Stephen’s Green in Dublin. Formed in 1974 when Ireland joined the E.U., Dóchas is the Irish Association of Non-Governmental Development Organizations. Hans and I discussed the evolution of the network and how its mandate has shifted and expanded over the years. Not only has Dóchas focused on Ireland’s aid commitments, but it has helped the Irish humanitarian and development aid sector to self-identify and “up the game” in terms of NGO effectiveness and accountability. An umbrella group for a diverse range of organizations, from corporate Concern to individual-founded small groups, Dóchas has done impressive work on facilitating cross-learning among its members and influencing the public debate on aid in Ireland and the E.U. Check out the resources page on their website, which is great for people working on aid throughout the world. (Also, their Code of Conduct on Images and Messages is something to which I often refer people.)
Clare Mulvany, Writer/Photographer/Development Educator, One Wild Life
Marianne Elliott (@zenpeacekeeper) graciously put me in touch with her friend, Clare Mulvany in Dublin, who has a broad experience in the aid and not-for-profit sector. Not only does she have a fabulous website showcasing her talents and services, as well as her great book, One Wild Life: A journey to discover people who change our world, she makes the juggling of multiple creative projects and consultancies seem fun and effortless. Though humble Clare might refute this, it is inspiring for me to see her pulling it off so well. Clare was off to a training non-violent communication in Serbia after we met and has shared some reflections on her trip on her blog – check it out!
The Opening of the Peace Bridge
My reason for going to Ireland was that a poem of mine had been selected by composer Ian Wilson for inclusion in a musical piece commissioned for the opening of the Derry Peace Bridge. As you can see from the picture below, the bridge itself is stunning and the experience of joining the delegation and walking across the bridge for the first time with those who have been involved in the peace process was a moment to remember for the rest of my life. What a privilege. That day there was a palpable sense of hope, while at the same time, the acknowledgement that there is still more work to be done. Here’s one of the poems I wrote about the experience:
Tinny ring of my words
heralds the day
as we, by grace,
walk to another platform
where more words
will attend to heaven,
who hears all.
“From this point forward”
they cry out to quiet their souls.
Let us gaze upon the healing we’ve managed,
and today, leave for a moment, the toil that remains.
Rage does not die quietly,
but let us hold our fragility in our hands,
in each others’,
in order to remember
when we inevitably forget again.
they are always,
always washing away.
As Richard Moore explained, “People converged because of what the bridge represented…People felt emotional. That bridge is a representation of the hurts as well as the positive side of the last 35 years. You stare at the bridge and you think about the victims, and all the work to get us to this point. And then you think – we are at that point. And that’s a wonderful place to be.”