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'For the best' Irish charity workers based abroad say they will miss seeing their families this Christmas


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Kate will have a glass of bubbly with her family over Zoom

Kate will have a glass of bubbly with her family over Zoom

Kate will have a glass of bubbly with her family over Zoom

Kate Higgins Jackson will spend Christmas far more than 2,000 miles from home.

Her family in Crumlin, Dublin will ache for her laugh as the 28-year-old continues her good work for Concern in far-flung Somalia - missing all her home comforts.

She says: "Although I am disappointed not to be returning home, I know it is for the best. I will be enjoying a glass of sparkling with family over a Zoom call.

Lights

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Kate’s sister Molly and her mother Iverna Higgins

Kate’s sister Molly and her mother Iverna Higgins

Kate’s sister Molly and her mother Iverna Higgins

"If I were home for Christmas, I would spend the time mostly with family, collectively pulling together Christmas dinner and eating until we cannot move any more, then collapsing in front of the TV for some Christmas programme specials; normally Call the Midwife and then go for a walk around the neighbourhood to look at the Christmas lights and trees in the windows. I really miss them at this time of year."

The reality is that with a necessity to isolate for two weeks here and two weeks on their return, many overseas Irish people will deem it impossible to come home - especially Ireland's charity workers dotted all over the globe.

Kate's mum Iverna tells the Sunday World: "She is the first born and I'm very proud of the pair of them, my youngest Molly is a nurse. Kate is so dedicated to her job and we will miss her awful. I love her to bits and I can't wait to put my arms around her.

"I have been to Kenya and Vietnam to see Kate and I've sat on the back of a motorbike going over mountains in Vietnam, things I just never would have done without her. I can't wait to see her again and go on one of her trips."

Isolate

Kate explains: "One of the most enjoyable parts of my job is that I get to work across every Concern sector - health and nutrition, education, livelihoods and emergencies. This means that every day is different and I learn something new in the process.

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Kate Higgins Jackson works for Concern in Somalia

Kate Higgins Jackson works for Concern in Somalia

Kate Higgins Jackson works for Concern in Somalia

"Christmas will look a little different this year, just like everything else during this pandemic.

"It is important to remember that officials and medical experts have been emphasising that large gatherings are not a good idea right now. To keep my family and others safe, I felt it wouldn't be a good idea to travel so far.

"I am meeting up with other international friends who were based in Somalia last year but have been redeployed to Uganda. While not as festive as at home, Christmas is celebrated in Uganda, so I'm travelling to my friends' house in Uganda where we should be able to isolate together in their house and enjoy some Christmas dinner and drinks.

"I'm really hopefully for 2021! If 2020 proved anything it is that people pull together during difficult times."

Maria Carr, from Ballydonoghue near Listowel, Co Kerry, will spend Christmas day in Cyprus, where she works with the RESTORE Programme for Northwest Syria for GOAL.

She says: "When I am home in Kerry for Christmas I spend time seeing family and catching up with friends who are around. I love wrapping up warm and getting out for a walk along Kerry's glorious beaches! And having a hot toddy afterwards. I go to Mass on Christmas day and we stuff our faces with traditional ham and Christmas pudding.

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Kerry woman Maria Carr works with GOAL and she will spend Christmas in Cyprus

Kerry woman Maria Carr works with GOAL and she will spend Christmas in Cyprus

Kerry woman Maria Carr works with GOAL and she will spend Christmas in Cyprus

"The RESTORE delivers cash, food, water and key lifesaving assistance to people who have been affected by ten years of conflict.

" Currently GOAL supports more than one million displaced people every day with food, water and emergency response. "The people of Syria have suffered so much over the years and next March marks the 10th anniversary of the start of the conflict. GOAL has worked in Syria since 2013 and is the biggest NGO operating in the region.

"I don't mind not being home and I know I can connect with my family online on Christmas Day.

"It will be a quiet day for me in Cyprus as churches, restaurants, bars and cafés have been closed to halt the spread of COVID-19 since early December.

"I hope to catch up with some work colleagues here and, unlike Ireland, at least the temperatures will be a little bit warmer here."

Dignity

Kate and Maria spoke to the Sunday World because they are part of Dóchas, the Irish Association of Non-Governmental Development Organisations.

It is a meeting place and a leading voice for organisations that want Ireland to be a world leader in efforts to bring about global justice. Its vision is of a world where poverty and marginalisation are unacceptable, and where every person has the right to live a life in dignity. Dóchas is made up of 57 members working in 104 countries across the globe.

Sunday World


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