Trócaire Blogs

 

April 25, 2016

Nepal: A year after the earth shook

It is almost one year since Nepal found itself picking-up the pieces following the most devastating earthquake it had seen in almost a century.

Caritas workers in nepal

Caption: Caritas workers in Nepal. Trócaire is a member of the Caritas Network.

April 25th 2015 is a date that will live long in the memory in Nepal. It was on that date that the earth moved and buildings collapsed, killing almost 9,000 people and leaving many thousands more injured and homeless.

Seventy-four-year-old Mishri, who comes from a rural area to the north of Kathmandu, remembers what happened.

“I was inside my house when the earth moved,” she says, “and then suddenly I was outside my house, thrown to the ground. I felt as if my soul had left me. I just stayed there, I didn’t move, and I waited for the earth to stop shaking.”

Mishri was found by her son, her son-in-law and her grandchildren. 

“They picked me up, and told me not to be afraid,” she says, “but I could see that my home was destroyed and my food store was buried under the rubble.”

Mishri in Nepal

Caption: Mishri (74) receiving aid in rural area to the north of Kathmandu

People in Ireland donated over €1 million to Trócaire’s Nepal Earthquake Appeal. This allowed Trócaire to support the work of partners in Nepal to reach some of the country’s most remote and marginalised communities. 

Mishri was one of over 300,000 people who received aid and support from Trócaire and our UK partner CAFOD in Nepal.

She received food, household items such as plastic buckets and cooking pots, blankets, as well as plastic sheeting for creating a makeshift shelter.

Trócaire sprang into action immediately after the earthquake. Caritas, the global network of Catholic relief agencies of which Trócaire is a member, has a strong presence in Nepal.

Caritas Nepal was established by the Catholic Church in 1990 and today has a presence in 50 of the country’s 75 districts.

Since the earthquake struck, the Caritas family has been working tirelessly to help people recover and rebuild.

“Our main work was providing immediate relief materials, like tarpaulin sheets, mats, blankets, and other WASH (water, sanitation and hygiene) items, such as buckets, clothes, soap and various items,” says Fr Pius Perumana, Director of Caritas Nepal. “Also in a number of villages where there was a real shortage of food, we also distributed food items; and in some of the villages, we provided tents and rope.”

Trócaire and other Catholic agencies from around the world rallied together to support Caritas Nepal in their hour of need.

Working in 15 districts, including ten of those worst hit by the earthquake, Trócaire supported the delivery of food, blankets, cooking equipment, hygiene kits and shelter kits.

Staff and volunteers have pushed trucks through mud, hiked up mountains, and even flown by helicopter to reach remote communities before they are cut off. 

Those efforts were massively helped by the dedication of people all over Ireland who ran fundraising campaigns to support Trócaire’s relief efforts.

Amazing generosity

Nowhere was this more evident than in Wexford. A group of people from Wexford were in Nepal when the earthquake struck and were determined to do what they could to support people in the country.

The events they organised across the county raised an incredible €170,000 for Trócaire's relief efforts in Nepal.

CRS worker in Nepal

Caption: Worker from Trócaire partner CRS worker in Nepal.

Riverchapel parish priest Fr. Tom Dalton was one of eight people from Wexford who had just landed in Nepal when the earthquake struck on April 25th.

The earthquake devastated large parts of the country, leaving hundreds of thousands of people homeless.

“We were very thankful that none of our group was harmed,” says Fr. Dalton. “We were also very conscious that we could leave but the people of Nepal, who had been so kind to us, were the ones who had to pick up the pieces. So we decided that we wanted to do something to help and we approached Trócaire and offered to support their appeal.”

Among the events held was a concert at the National Opera House and benefit nights held at Kelly’s Hotel, Whites of Wexford and Tara Vie Hotel.

Local schools also got behind the fundraising efforts, with bake sales held at Riverchapel National School and Gorey Community School, while St. Mary’s National School held a non-uniform day to support the campaign.

Several other events were held, including charity runs and a link-up with Apple Green petrol stations.

“When we started out we very optimistically hoped to raise €100,000,” says Fr. Dalton. “Never in our wildest dreams did we think we would end up raising over €170,000. We have been astounded by people’s generosity. People have been so good and have been very enthusiastic about supporting the various events that have been run to support the people of Nepal.”

Trócaire’s Fintan Maher has paid tribute to the various communities in Wexford who got behind the appeal and organised events to raise money.

“To raise over €170,000 is a phenomenal achievement,” he said. “Everybody involved deserves enormous credit – from the organising committee who put together a wonderful night at the National Opera House, to the schoolchildren who baked cakes. The hard work of people in Wexford has allowed us to get shelter, water and other aid to people who lost everything when the earthquake struck.”

One year on, that generosity is still being felt all over Nepal.

Find out more about Trócaire's work in Nepal.

April 21, 2016

Trócaire calls on Ireland to withdraw public money from the fossil fuel industry

Trócaire today launched a major new campaign calling on the incoming government to fully divest public money from the fossil fuel industry and to prohibit all future public investments in the industry.
 
Last year Ireland had investments of approximately €72m in the fossil fuel industry through the Irish Strategic Investment Fund (ISIF), the successor to the National Pension Reserve Fund.

Trócaire said that it was unacceptable for the government to continue to invest public money into an industry that is driving climate change, leading to drought, hunger and humanitarian crisis in the developing world.

Woman holding climate change sign
 
Trócaire Executive Director Éamonn Meehan said:
 
“There are currently 60 million people across the developing world suffering food shortages due to drought. Irish people have consistently responded to humanitarian emergencies brought about by climate change, but these investments undermine those efforts. By investing in fossil fuel industries, Ireland is funding climate change.
 
“Ireland has committed itself to phasing-out fossil fuels as part of its role in combatting climate change. It makes no sense for the government to continue to invest in the very industry it is committed to phasing-out.
 
“In 2008 the then government enacted legislation to prohibit state investment in the cluster munitions industry on ethical grounds. Given the scale of the climate crisis facing the world, the time has come to do likewise with the fossil fuel industry.
 
“Withdrawing the ISIF investments would be hugely symbolic. Divesting from fossil fuels and prohibiting future investment in the industry would send a powerful message that there is a step change in Ireland toward a more ambitious and coherent policy on climate change.”
 
Today’s launch of The Burning Question campaign, asking people in Ireland whether their money is being used to fund climate change, sees Trócaire join the global divestment campaign calling for an end to investments in the fossil fuel industry. As of March 2016 more than 500 institutions around the world, with an approximate value of $3.4 trillion, have committed to divestment from fossil fuels.
 
Éamonn Meehan called on Irish institutions, organisations and companies to join the global divestment movement:
 
“Climate change is the biggest crisis of our time and compounds poverty in the developing world. Every day, Trócaire responds to the impacts of climate change in some of the poorest communities in the world. These people have done nothing to cause the problem and yet they are suffering the most through droughts, floods and storms made worse by climate change.
 
“The UN Paris Agreement adopted last December commits governments around the world to limiting global warming to below 2 degrees Celsius, but we know that this is not possible on current emissions levels. We need a rapid increase in ambition and action in order to meet international targets and save the world’s poorest people from even more extreme effects.
 
“The current refugee crisis will only grow into the future if we stand back and allow huge swathes of land become essentially uninhabitable and continue to make people even more vulnerable to extreme weather. The global divestment movement is demanding more ambition from political leaders. We are calling on Irish people to make this a political issue and to demand that TDs refuse to accept continued Irish investment in an industry that is destroying the planet.”

Additional notes:

1. The Irish Strategic Investment Fund (ISIF), the successor to the National Pension Reserve Fund, is an investment vehicle of the Irish Government funded by tax payer money. According to its most recent Annual Report, the ISIF had investments in some of the world’s most controversial fossil fuel companies, to a value of €72million.
 
2. The ISIF has invested in some of the planet’s worst climate offenders. Particularly concerning are investments in TransCanada, the company behind the controversial Keystone XL pipe in the US that was vetoed by President Obama, and Peabody Energy, a coal company which refers to climate change as ‘a non-existent harm’.
 
3. The UN Paris Agreement will be signed in New York on Friday, April 22nd. This Agreement commits governments around the world to decarbonisation, limiting global warming to well below two degrees Celsius, while pursuing a more ambitious limit of 1.5 degrees Celsius.
 
4. The White Paper 'Ireland's Transition to a Low Carbon Energy Future 2015-2030', launched in December 2015, commits Ireland to achieving 80-95% decarbonisation by 2050 and full decarbonisation by the end of the century.
 
5. Trócaire works in over 20 countries throughout the developing world, including some of the countries most vulnerable to the effects of climate change. This includes Honduras, Malawi, Ethiopia, Pakistan and Guatemala.
 
6. For further information please visit www.trocaire.org/burningquestion

April 19, 2016

Remembering Berta Cáceres in Dublin

Last Saturday, April 16th, we remembered the fearless environmental activist and indigenous leader, Berta Cáceres who was brutally murdered in Honduras on March 3rd 2016.

We joined other social justice organisations, Frontline Defenders, Latin American Solidarity Group (LASC), and International Peace Brigades (PBI) Ireland, to remember Berta Cáceres at the top of Grafton Street Dublin from 1-2pm.

Watch a video of the event produced by Esperanza productions.

We honoured her life and what she fought for with poetry, flowers, and music from Guatemalan musician Fernando Lopez.

 

In the run up to the event, the amazing Naomi Klein recorded an inspiring video to encourage people to attend the event.

In a truly international event, we were joined by Trócaire managers who were visiting Ireland from all over the world.

 

We were also joined by Hondurans living in Ireland: Elizabeth, Yensi and Linda, who travelled from Cork and Donegal to join us on Saturday.

Berta Cáceres event in Dublin

 

Demand justice for #BertaCaceres

Over 1,250 people have already joined us in demanding justice for Berta Cáceres.

You too can demanding that Honduran authorities carry out an impartial investigation of Berta Cáceres brutal murder, and which the climate of impunity that exists in Honduras is tackled: Demand justice

 

'Our Berta is the greatest inspiration we have known, that is why we feel a need to ensure that the truth about her life and struggle is heard. Berta's fight is the dignified fight of all the peoples and the fight that the world needs.'

Taken from the statement made by Olivia, Bertha, Laura and Salvador, Berta's children and her mother Austra Bertha, at her final resting place on 5th March 2016.

 

Listen to a podcast from the day produced by Esperanza productions.

 

 

Thank you for remembering Berta with us.

Please demand justice: www.trocaire.org/getinvolved/berta-caceres

April 18, 2016

Trócaire nominated to share $1m human rights prize

Trócaire has been nominated for a prestigious new human rights award in recognition of the organisation’s work to eradicate bonded labour, a form of modern slavery, in Pakistan.

abbas ali and his wife Basheeran Bibi

Abbas Ali and his wife Basheeran Bibi. Abbas became enslaved by debt for a loan worth just €256. Photo: Conor O'Loughlin

The agency has been named as a potential recipient of funding made available by the Aurora Prize, a high profile award co-chaired by actor George Clooney and Nobel Laureate Elie Wiesel.

Four individuals have been nominated for the inaugural Aurora Prize, with the $1m award being donated to an organisation nominated by the eventual winner.

Trócaire has been nominated by Syeda Ghulam Fatima, a Pakistani human rights activist who has worked tirelessly to end bonded labour in her country. 

Selection Committee co-chair George Clooney will announce the inaugural Aurora Prize Laureate during a ceremony in Yerevan, Armenia on April 24, 2016. 

Trócaire Executive Director Éamonn Meehan said:

“Syeda Ghulam Fatima is committed to ending slavery in Pakistan. She is a woman of deep integrity and compassion, whose extraordinary conviction has driven her to work for over 40 years to end slavery in Pakistan’s brick factories. Trócaire has supported Fatima to establish Freedom Centres where workers receive healthcare, education, awareness on rights, physical protection and legal services. Her efforts to date have freed more than 80,000 people. Trócaire is honoured to be nominated as part of this award. The funds would greatly assist us in continuing our work to end slavery in Pakistan.” 

Trócaire’s Pakistan Country Director John O’Brien said:

“Trócaire has been fighting for the rights of bonded labourers in Pakistan since 2007. We are committed to working with others to abolish this form of modern day slavery. Fatima has made an enormous contribution to the advancement of rights in Pakistan and we are honoured that she selected Trócaire as a potential beneficiary of this award.”

The four finalists for the inaugural Aurora Prize are:

Marguerite Barankitse of Maison Shalom and REMA Hospital in Burundi: Marguerite Barankitse saved thousands of lives and cared for orphans and refugees during the years of civil war in Burundi. To date, she has saved an estimated 30,000 children and in 2008, she opened a hospital which has treated more than 80,000 patients thus far. 

Dr. Tom Catena of Mother of Mercy Hospital in the Nuba Mountains of Sudan. Dr. Tom Catena is an American physician and the sole doctor of the Mother of Mercy Hospital in rebel-held territory in the Nuba Mountains, Sudan. Despite several bombings by the Sudanese government, Dr. Catena resides on the hospital grounds so that he may be on call at all times.

Syeda Ghulam Fatima, the General Secretary of the Bonded Labor Liberation Front in Pakistan. Syeda Ghulam Fatima has worked tirelessly to eradicate bonded labour, one of the last remaining forms of modern slavery, liberating thousands of Pakistani workers.

Father Bernard Kinvi, a Catholic priest in Bossemptele in the Central African Republic. Father Bernard Kinvi has provided refuge and health services to those on both sides of the civil war in the Central African Republic through his mission in Bossemptele. He has saved hundreds of people from persecution and death. 

The four finalists were each asked to shortlist up to three organizations that they would nominate for a share of the $1m award if they are named Aurora Prize Laureate. If Syeda Ghulam Fatima is named Aurora Prize Laureate Trócaire will share the $1m prize with the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) and the Bonded Labour Liberation Front (BLLF).

The winner will be chosen by a selection committee which includes George Clooney, Mary Robinson and four Nobel Laureates, including Elie Wiesel. 

Find out more: Read Abbas Ali's story of bonded labour in Pakistan

April 14, 2016

Myanmar: An attack on two fronts

By Sean Farrell, Director, International Division

For the past five years, the people of Kachin – a large state in northern Myanmar, home to 1.7 million people - have been racked by conflict. Over 100,000 have had to flee their homes, seeking sanctuary in the many camps that dot the landscape.
 
This journey into displacement has brought terror, poverty, desperation and anger. Many people forced from their villages have lost their homes, their farms, their valuable few animals.
 
Today, they sit in crowded conditions, supported by food aid, often flooded during monsoon season, thinking of a better time when they lived on their farms many miles away.
 
Even in the midst of the twists and changes in the conflict, some have chosen to make the journey out of the camps and return to the place they know as home.

A small community from a village called Nam Zaw Yang are one such community. Of the 52 households from this community, 10 of them have decided to leave the squalid safety of camp life and set up again in their home village.
 
And as they have made the journey home after years of camp life, a second attack on them has started.
 
Sitting in a small bamboo hut, as tea boils on the open fire, they speak of this second attack on them. Their land has been seized. Where they once farmed, a banana plantation now sits on 600 acres, dominating the landscape and dominating their future prospects.
 
This was their land. Their trees and plants and crops grew here. Their place of worship and place of education stood here. They buried their dead on this land. And it provided the water and soil that sustained life.
 
Today, their land is covered by a banana plantation, their school abandoned and forlorn, their water source poisoned by the chemical run off from the plantation and their graveyard hidden and lost amidst the fields of banana.
 
They speak slowly but with anger of how the plantation now sucks much of the water from the area, poisoning the fish they used to catch in the streams and even bringing death to the water buffalo that are so essential for keeping their rice paddies ploughed and productive. They talk about how their rice plants now turn black and decayed as a result of the chemical flow off from the banana plantation nearby. They reflect on the ending of their rural way of life.
 
As I walk around the plantation listening to quiet voices, I can see how this place has changed so horribly. This land is now owned by a Chinese businessman. The bananas produced will end up in markets in China, bringing wealth to a small number of people. The poor will be pitted against one another as desperate migrants from Southern Myanmar work the long plantation hours and will stand in the front line if this abuse of a community spills over into violence.
 
We see this too often in our work as Trócaire. The areas and local conditions may be different but the common features - land grabs, illegal land acquisitions, mining concessions and forced displacement – are the same. These features are the result of the overt and brutal use of power. It comes in different forms, but its intention is always the same: to suppress dissent and ensure the benefits accrue to the few at the expense of the many.
 
And as always, it is infused with a belief that power becomes alive in two ways – either from the gun or from the dollar.
 
But sitting here in this hut with its thatch roof and smell of tea poured in simple cups fashioned from bamboo, one definite truth hangs in the air: real power comes from within. As long as this community bonds together, strive as one and believe in the power of perseverance and in the reality of truth, they have a chance.
 
The test for them is that they will have to do this under sustained pressure. And the nearer they get to success, the more the pressure applied.

For us as Trócaire, our work is to build a global movement of people who believe in and work for justice. It is about bringing people together to bind their centres of power to effect real and lasting change. It is about linking the actions of these rural farmers driven from lands their forefathers and foremothers held for generations with the actions of those in Ireland who deeply care.
 
In essence it is about building a bridge of support, stretching across thousands of miles, from Ireland to Myanmar, ensuring that these rural communities have a fighting chance.

Through local partner organisations, Trócaire is supporting this community to raise awareness of their legal entitlements, to document complaints, and to organise and mobilise in defence of their land.
 
There was not much they could do about the war that drove them into the camps.
 
This new war on their land however is one they can do something about. And sitting looking at the determined lines in their solemn faces, it’s clear they will.

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