Trócaire Blog


March 27, 2015

President of Ireland marks retirement of Trócaire’s Sally O’Neill

Yesterday, the President of Ireland, Michael D Higgins, marked the retirement of leading human rights advocate and Trócaire worker, Sally O’Neill, with a lunch in Áras An Uachtarain. 

The event honoured her contribution to overseas development and human rights over almost four decades. 

From Dungannon, County Tyrone, Sally  has been at the heart of Trócaire’s overseas work for 37 years. She will formally step down in early April. She is currently working as Trócaire’s Head of Region for Latin America, and is based in Honduras.  

Throughout her career, Sally has worked on the frontline during some of the most significant global humanitarian crises. 

Within weeks of joining Trócaire in 1978, three bitter civil wars broke out in El Salvador, Guatemala and Nicaragua. Sally led delegations of politicians and bishops to Central America, so they could see the suffering, translating for Archbishop Oscar Romero six weeks before he was murdered. 

She oversaw humanitarian aid to more than two million refugees in the Central American region in the following years. 

In 1982, Sally and Michael D Higgins, (who was then a TD) visited El Salvador to investigate reports of a massacre in the village of El Mozote. They were initially refused entry into the country but were eventually granted access. They uncovered evidence of a massacre of civilians and their report from El Mozote made its way onto the pages of the international media, including the New York Times and Washington Post. 

Sally also worked in Ethiopia during the famine in the mid-eighties and played a central role in Trócaire’s response to the famine in Somalia in the early 1990s, establishing its programme in Gedo, which still operates today.  

In her current post, she oversees Trócaire’s work in Central America across Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. 

Sally was appointed by the President of Ireland as a member of the High Level Panel for the Presidential Distinguished Service Award for the Irish Abroad in 2012 and awarded the Hugh O´Flaherty Humanitarian Award in 2011.

After her retirement Sally will continue in her role on the High Level Panel for the Presidential Distinguished Service Award for the Irish Abroad in addition to working in a voluntary capacity as a facilitator with prisoners in Honduras who have been wrongfully convicted, and migrants in transit. 

Éamonn Meehan, Trócaire’s executive director said of Sally: 

“Sally O’Neill has had a truly remarkable career in overseas development and human rights. Through her belief in the dignity of all people, she has empowered so many to overcome the worst cases of poverty and injustice. 

Through her vision and commitment, Sally built the foundations of Trócaire, so that it could become the organisation it is today. I am convinced that this vision will continue to inspire the organisation into the future.”  

March 20, 2015

Trad for Trócaire hits Malawi

The Fáilte Band took Trad for Trócaire to the students of the Zuze Primary School in Dedza, Malawi this week.
Zuze is one of six villages in this area benefiting directly from the money raised during Trócaire's Lenten campaign last year. 
Since last October, four boreholes have been drilled providing 1250 people with access to water. Additionally, trees have been planted on the river banks to protect against erosion and to improve water retention. Over the coming months, the communities will help construct weirs and canals to enable access to water for irrigating their crops during the upcoming dry season. 
2000 goats and 3000 chickens have been distributed, and training has been completed on how to breed, house, and care for the animals so that thousands more families can benefit from them in future. 
A variety of seeds have been distributed to thousands of families so that the upcoming harvest will see an increase in food production, reducing the risk of food and income insecurity. 
Clean cookstoves have also been distributed to help families reduce the amount of firewood needed which lessens the burden for women, as well as protecting the environment. 
The band were delighted to see the difference your support is making. 
March 16, 2015

Trócaire supporting relief efforts in Vanuatu

Trócaire is supporting relief efforts in Vanuatu in the aftermath of what is thought to have been the worst cyclone to ever hit the country.
Cyclone Pam, a Category 5 storm, made landfall on the most populated island of Efate, where more than 65,000 people live. The cyclone had wind speeds of up to 270 km/h.
Éamonn Meehan, Trócaire Executive Director, said:
“Early indications are that this is one of the worst storms to ever hit the region. Our partners are working in the affected areas and we are working with them to get aid to people who have lost their homes.
“This is yet another reminder of the constant threat of extreme weather facing people in the Pacific region. The Philippines recently experienced its worst ever storm and now it appears as though Vanuatu has suffered a similar fate. Climate change is leading to more intense storms in the region, putting millions of people at risk.”
When the cyclone hit, Vanuatu’s President Baldwin Lonsdale was attending the Third World Conference for Disaster Risk Reduction (WCDRR) in Sendai, Japan, to highlight his nation’s vulnerability to natural disaster.
Also in attendance was Dejene Fikre, Trócaire’s regional humanitarian coordinator for East Africa. He said: 
“In recent years the Vanuatu community has been challenged by frequent disasters because of climate change. Here in Sendai there is a shared understanding that it is the first time the world has both the knowledge and the resource to end such vulnerability to disaster.”
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March 09, 2015

Annual Lent Lecture 2015

Cardinal Peter Kodwo Appiah Turkson, President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, was the guest speaker of our annual Lenten Lecture held in St Patrick’s College, Maynooth, on Thursday 5th March 2015.

His lecture was entitled 'Integral ecology and the horizon of hope: concern for the poor and for creation in the ministry of Pope Francis'

Download Cardinal Turkson's Lent Lecture 2015

Watch a recording of Cardinal Turkson's Lenten Lecture:

Cardinal Peter Turkson shares some thoughts on Trócaire’s work on climate justice and how care of the earth has a spiritual value for Christians:


Dr Lorna Gold, Head of Policy and Advocacy in Trócaire gave a reflection on ‘Integral Ecology’ in response to Cardinal Peter Turkson's Lecture.

Download Dr Lorna Gold's Reflection


February 26, 2015

UK Aid Match funding in action

This Lent, the UK government will match, pound for pound, all public donations to the campaign in Northern Ireland, up to a maximum of £5 million. 
This will support programmes in Ethiopia for the next three years and help improve the lives of tens of thousands of people.
Last year, thanks to the amazing generosity of our supporters in Northern Ireland, particularly through parishes and schools, more than £2 million donated during the Lenten campaign 2014 was matched, pound for pound, by the UK government through the ‘UK Aid Match’ scheme. 
That extra money has been put to work in Zimbabwe and Malawi to help support wide-reaching programmes there. 
A great example of the difference that can be made is in the village of Mbuso, Zimbabwe, where a Trócaire-supported irrigation scheme has enabled people to produce their first crop of sugar beans. The scheme is very simple – a solar-powered pump has been buried in a dry riverbed and pumps water from deep underground to a large storage tank. The water is then fed down plastic piping to irrigate the vegetable gardens.  
Not only do farmers avoid the high cost of electricity, they are also setting a precedent for using renewable and clean sources of energy for low cost food production. 
“Even in the middle of winter there is no shortage of sunshine here so the pump will always have power,” says Najabulo Maphosa (30), one of the farmers benefitting from the project. “We are no longer dependent on the weather like before”.
It’s a perfect example of how Trócaire is helping people become self-reliant both now and for generations to come. 
Njabulo Maphosa with the solar panels
Njabulo Maphosa with the solar panels that power the water pump for the village irrigation system. Photo: Margaret Masanga
In Maphisa village, Thandiwe Ncube (53) remembers a time when she dug for water on the sandy riverbed near her home.  Sometimes she dug for hours for the single bucket of water her family needed to survive each day. 
“The nearest borehole is 3 or 4 kilometres away,” explains Thandiwe. “We had either to walk up and down in the scorching sun or cut the time short by digging for water here on the riverbed.” 
Trócaire responded to the problems faced by the village by implementing a project to help trap rainwater in a reservoir. Thandiwe, who is a widow with four children, joined other members of the community to make the reservoir a reality. 
Now when it rains, instead of the water draining away it can be trapped and used by the whole community. The availability of this water has revived the area. The villagers are able to irrigate their crops and access drinking water close to their homes.
“Now I can spend more time farming and growing vegetables which I can sell to buy books for my grandchildren. I am inspired,” Thandiwe says.
Thandiwe has also become involved in other ways of making money to support her family. In the bushes surrounding the reservoir, she and other women use mud and water to mould bricks which are sold locally.
For Thandiwe, water is important to everything she does even in the most basic way. “Look at me, I am clean. Our clothes used to be dirty all the time. Now I wash them often, whenever I want.”
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