Missionaries on Frontline of Ireland's Aid Programme

The President of Ireland, Michael D Higgins paid tribute to the thousands of Irish missionaries transforming lives, and communities around the world at the Misean Cara AGM in the Milltown Institute in Dublin yesterday. With an audience of 140 missionaries from Ireland, the UK, Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya and Australia, delegates discussed the improvements their work is having for the poor and marginalised, and debated plans for the future. President Higgins has long been an advocate of the work of missionaries, calling them 'Ireland's original pioneers in Africa' during a recent official visit to Malawi.

Missionaries remain on the frontline of Ireland's development aid programme with support from Irish Aid through Misean Cara.

"Local and indigenous missionaries are continuing the development work initiated, and carried out for many decades by Irish missionaries in poor countries in the global south. Missionary development is an integral part of Ireland's overseas aid programme, and is recognised for its holistic approach and how it reaches into remote areas where other agencies generally do not operate," said Misean Cara Chairperson Matt Moran, "apart from providing essential services in education and health, missionaries enable the poor and marginalised to advocate for their rights and to seek social justice."

Irish missionaries and their colleagues in developing countries are one of the biggest development networks worldwide. Many have settled in far flung villages hours away from capital cities so they can work with some of the most vulnerable and marginalised communities in the world.

"Last year, we distributed over €14 million in project funding to our members in 49 countries. Irish and local missionaries are working with communities to find their unique route out of poverty," said Misean Cara CEO Heydi Foster. "They build schools and offer a way out of poverty through high quality education. They run clinics and health centres, and provide life-saving medical treatment to people living with HIV and AIDS, cancer and other illnesses."

Missionaries have a major role to play in the future of international development. Their connections with communities last longer than the cycle of a humanitarian crisis. During the Ebola crisis, missionaries remained in solidarity with their communities providing emergency food supplies, shelter, and medical care. Although some were also amongst the casualties they still remained.

"The story that gripped the world's attention last year was the Ebola outbreak. Our members are part of the prestigious group of Ebola fighters who were, and continue to remain at the frontline."

"Even as Liberia has been declared 'Ebola-free,' and Sierra Leone will follow soon, our members like the Missionary Sisters of the Holy Rosary, and the St John of God Brothers are part of the recovery. I am proud that our organisation was able to allocate nearly €500,000 to respond to Ebola," said Ms Foster.

The AGM culminated in the launch of the 2014 Annual Report that reaffirms missionaries are doing very valuable and impactful work with some of the most vulnerable, and marginalised communities in the world.

For instance, the Mercy Sisters set up the HIV and AIDS Mukuru Home Based Care Clinic in the heart of the Mukuru slum in Nairobi, Kenya. The clinic provides a life-line to many people living with HIV and AIDS through their supportservices. There a volunteer called Amy walks the narrow mud streets daily with a megaphone encouraging people to go to the clinic.

2014 marked the first ever multi-partner initiative of five of its members - the Good Shepherd Sisters, Mill Hill Missionaries, the Daughters of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart, the Sisters of the Holy Cross, and the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart. They are partnering with the Catholic Health Care Association of Southern Africa to upskill their health care projects through a NGO / government partnership.

The role of Misean Cara has evolved since its inception 10 years ago, and facilitating opportunities for joint action amongst members offers one of the key opportunities for the future.

For more information see the Misean Cara website here: http://www.miseancara.ie


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