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September 15, 2014

Join the largest climate mobilisation in history on September 21

September 21 is set to be the largest public mobilisation in history against climate change. Trócaire’s Emmet Sheerin writes about the reason for this, and calls on people here in Ireland to take part in the worldwide event.


On September 21, in towns, villages and cities across the world, people will be gathering to show that they care about climate change – that they demand a fair and adequate response to this global problem.


The international day of action is being held just 48 hours before world leaders, including our own Taoiseach Enda Kenny, meet in New York for a summit on climate change. The summit is being hosted by the United Nations Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, and will be one of the most high-profile, global moments focused on climate change in years. It is hoped that the summit can generate the much needed political will and momentum towards agreeing a universal binding agreement on climate change in 2015.


In reality, however, without significant public pressure, it is highly unlikely that world leaders will take the necessary measures to adequately tackle climate change. The international day of action is therefore an opportunity to put pressure on world leaders to step up to the mark. It is a chance for Irish people to send a strong message to the Taoiseach demanding action on climate change, not simply words.


As part of the run up to the event, Trócaire went along to Electric Picnic, armed with a few trad musicians and a giant heart. We asked people to write on the giant heart the thing they love and want to protect against climate change. Take a look at the video below to see what people care about.  


Make your voice heard and join us for the People’s Climate Picnic, Sunday September 21

Dublin: The Bandstand, St. Stephen's Green, Dublin 2, 12-2pm

Belfast: The lawn outside the Whitla Hall at Queen's University Belfast, 1pm-3pm



Now is the time for us all to act on climate change for the love of everything we hold dear!

September 02, 2014

Life at Malmaley Primary School, Somalia

"It is my hope and prayer to see a stable Somalia where children can progress in their education and teachers are free to serve in any part of the country. Education is the only hope." - An interview with Sirad Mohamud Jilacow (50), Head Teacher at Malmaley Primary School, one of the 15 primary schools that Trócaire supports in the Gedo region of Somalia. 
 
Why did you decide to become a school teacher and do you like this profession?
 
I was an orphan but had the opportunity to go to school and complete my education. I became a teacher because I want to give children in my community the same opportunity, regardless of their backgrounds or situations. 
 
I enjoy teaching and hope to continue doing so until age catches up with me!
 
How long have you been teaching?
 
I have been teaching since 1984, in different parts of the country. 
 
Which subjects do you teach?
 
I mainly teach Science but as we have few teachers here I also teach other subjects like English and Maths. 
 
Which subject do the pupils like best and why?
 
I have noticed that they enjoy Science as it is mostly about the environment, what they learn in class, for example animals and plants, are things they see every day. 
 
What are the biggest challenges you face as a teacher in this environment?
 
There are not enough books for all the children. Sometimes teaching becomes difficult when you want to display a diagram or a picture yet there is only one book for everyone. The children end up scrambling just to get a glimpse.
 
For some subjects we do not have any reference books and we end up borrowing from neighbouring schools. If we can't get access to books we rely on and pull directly from our own teaching experience. We also have to write everything on the chalkboard for the students to copy into their books.
 
The other challenge is that during the dry season and the pastoralist nature of families here, parents move to areas where they can find pasture and water for their animals. This means that often children have to leave with their parents and hence cannot go to class. 
 
somalia education teacher interview
Left: soap is distributed to students at Malmaley Primary. Right: Sirad Mohamud Jilacow, Head Teacher
 
 
How do you encourage pupils to stay in school until the final grade?
 
During school holidays many children help their parents to look for pasture for their animals. Some end up spending long periods of time away from their homes and fail to come back to school.
 
I keep the contact list of parents or guardians and ask for the whereabouts of those students who fail to report back to school. I also receive support in doing this from parents and education committees. 
 
The school feeding programme with Trócaire also helps us encourage pupils to complete their education.
 
What are the biggest challenges facing the parents, and communities, in sending their children to school?
 
The biggest challenge is the lack of adequate knowledge of the importance of education. The nomadic way of life, where families migrate to other areas in search for pasture and water for their animals, denies many children the opportunity to attend school.
 
Cultural practices, such as girls’ early marriage, which is still practiced here in my village, continues to hinder enrolment of girls in school. Girls also lack female ‘role models’ from the community who they can look up to and seek advice from, on education matters.
 
However, a lady from the village who now works with a local organisation visited our home area, encouraging parents within the community on the importance of educating the girl child. As a result, 15 girls from that village were enrolled in a Trócaire supported school in Belet Hawa district. I’m glad the notion towards educating girls seems to be changing.
 
Good times are ahead of us!
 
If you were to make some changes in your community, what would they be?
 
I would change the main economic activity to agriculture because, unlike pastoralism, farming requires minimal movement or relocations of families. This will give children the space to enrol in schools and pursue their education until completion.
 
Lastly, it is my hope and prayer to see a stable Somalia where children can progress in their education and teachers are free to serve in any part of the country. Education is the only hope.
 
 
August 26, 2014

There’s still a long way to go to bring the AIDS pandemic under control

By Noreen Gumbo & Deirdre Ni Cheallaigh
 
The recent International AIDS Conference in Melbourne brought together an amazing diversity of scientists, researchers, practitioners, politicians, and people living with HIV from every corner of the globe.   
 
The conference reflected on the phenomenal progress which has been made to date in providing life-saving treatment to 14 million people and dramatically reducing HIV infections in both adults and children. 
 
It was also an opportunity to strategise on how to ensure that the amazing benefits of medicine and science are made available to everyone who needs them.  
 
There’s still a long way to go in bring the AIDS pandemic under control and sadly the statistics we’re seeing point to particular groups that are being left behind.  The largest group at risk of HIV world-wide are young women in Sub Saharan Africa who are at least twice as likely to be living with HIV as young men in the same age group. In many places this figure is much higher.  
 
aids conference melbourne
Dr Enida Friel of Oxfam Ireland with Noreen Gumbo and Deirdre Ni Cheallaigh in Melbourne
 
Other groups being left behind include men who have sex with men, sex workers, drug users and prisoners.  The message is clear: we have the answer to controlling the epidemic but there are barriers to be overcome to reach these most marginalised groups; barriers of exclusion, discrimination and bad policies.
 
In an address to conference delegates, Bill Clinton commented that the six delegates killed on their way to the conference on MH17 “gave their entire lives to the proposition that our common humanity matters a hell of a lot more than our differences” and urged participants to use their example to step up the pace.  
 
We are all challenged to do more. We are challenged as a faith agency to ensure we are inclusive and challenged as activists to lobby our political leaders to make the right choices and ensure that this epidemic is brought to an end and no one is left behind.
 
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August 21, 2014

Land for 110 violently evicted Guatemalan families

by Alexis Williams, Guatemala
 
As the sun rose on the Polochic valley 525 women, men and children belonging to various communities began a twelve hour journey along mainly dirt roads to their new community in Sactelá.
 
Travelling in a convoy of school buses and trucks, the families took all of their belonging including the tin roofs of their previous houses, household belongings and animals such as chickens and cats. 
 
The women, men and children belong to the 110 landless farmer families who were violently evicted in March 2011 in the Polochic Valley, north-eastern Guatemala, were re-located by the Guatemalan government to Sactelá, Cobán as part of the precautionary measure emitted by the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights (ICDH). 
 
Guatemalan families relocated following forced evictions
Community members holding signs (left) and participating in Mayan ceremony prior to departing. Photos: Alexis Williams
 
Since the eviction in 2011 Trócaire has accompanied 700 families along with our partner organisation Fundación Guillermo Toriello with emergency support such as food, medical provisions, temporary shelter and the construction of houses for 125 families. Additionally Trócaire has been collaborating with national and international civil society organisations to lobby and work with the Guatemalan government to ensure families are provided land and dignified living conditions. 
 
For several months prior to the re-location meetings took place between community leaders and several government institutions such as the Human Rights Office and the ministries for Transport, Water Supplies and Health to ensure that government committed to providing a minimum of basic services as recommended by the ICDH. On the day of the journey to Sactelá the families were accompanied by national and international organisations in a show of solidarity as well as observation of the process organised by the Guatemala government. 
 
Oscar Cucul, spokesperson for the 110 families spoke emotionally of the sadness of leaving the area in which they were born to move to a completely new community. Oscar also reminded the government “that over 500 families that were evicted are still in need of land where to live”, he added that the “government should favour the families from the Polochic and not the large businesses of sugar cane and African palm”.
 
Guatemalans relocated following forced evictions
Families awaiting food during the journey. Photo: Alexis Williams
 
Unfortunately, the families arrived in Sactelá at night time to find that the conditions the government was obliged to provide, including toilets, a potable water system and road access were not fulfilled. This situation worries Trócaire, as well as several organisations including the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights of the United Nations in Guatemala. Trócaire along with the other national and international organisations will continue to work and where necessary place pressure on the government to act immediately. 
 
The Polochic Valley is a fertile stretch of land in north-eastern Guatemala, 50km from the Caribbean coastline. During the last few years there has been a dramatic expansion of sugar cane and African Palm driven by large land owners and multinational companies. The uncontrolled expansion has had an adverse impact in local communities who have for generations farmed in the valley. This includes rising land prices for purchase and rental (families who cannot afford to buy often rent or pay rent with the harvest of maize), increasing use of agro-chemicals and more drastically the violation of human rights through violent evictions involving the military, police and private security firms.  
 
Trócaire has highlighted the impact of large scale production of such monocrops for the exportation and use as agro-fuel in its campaign Food Not Fuel. Further information can be found in the article 'Food Not Fuel: Evicted families in Guatemala still face an uncertain future', and the documentary covering the visit of Irish actor Aidan Gillen to the Polochic Valley which was recently nominated for the Irish Council for Civil Liberties Human Rights Film Award.  
 
The re-location of the 110 families is a small victory in ensuring that the human rights of the communities are respected and enforced. However, the re-location has come at a cost as families from various communities who have a generational connection with the Polochic Valley will now live in another region of the country, obliged to begin new relationships within the community and also with neighbouring communities. Additionally 629 families still wait for the government to provide land. These families wish to remain within the Polochic Valley and demand that the government put the communities’ well-being ahead of the interests of the private companies. 
 
August 18, 2014

In pictures: Trad for Trócaire 2014 launches at Sligo Fleadh

 
"At the Fleadh you are in the real core of Ireland: its culture,  music and open heart. These are people of Ireland at their best. Focal as Gaeilge: Bhain me an-taitneamh go deo as an Fleadh. Iontach suimiuil agus spreaguil. Ta croi Trócaire ann."
-Geraldine McDermot, Trócaire Volunteer
 
The Trad for Trócaire team was out in force at the Sligo Fleadh this weekend. Musicians, dancers and singers donned their blue Trad for Trócaire t-shirts and entertained the crowds with sessions all over the town. 
 
Music fans: Organise your own event with Trad for Trócaire
 
trocaire at sligo fleadh
 
trad for trocaire sligo fleadh
 
trad for trocaire fleadh
 
trocaire at sligo fleadh 2014
 
trad for trocaire launch sligo
 
trad for trocaire volunteers sligo
 
trad for trocaire musicians at sligo fleadh 2014
 
Trad for Trócaire is a fundraising and music week run by Trócaire and Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann that celebrates traditional Irish music, while raising funds to support Trócaire’s work to help poor communities overcome poverty across the developing world. 
 
Music is powerful, but a Trad for Trócaire seisiún has the power to change lives. 
 
Please play your part this year by organising a Trad session, and raising funds to support some of the world’s poorest people with Irish music and song.
 
 
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