A SAFE haven for those fleeing the trauma of war is what one Whitegate woman is hoping to create, using her own experience of working with refugees.
Didi Driscoll worked with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in the early ‘80s and has seen first-hand the trauma that war brings.
“I’m not political,” she told The Champion, “but I know that war is terrible and it’s terrible especially for women and children. In the refugee camps in Somalia, we were delivering food to almost one million people.
“The truck drivers would come along, shouting in Swahili and Somalia, telling us and all of the refugees to run away, and to keep running from the conflict. People fleeing Ukraine have no choice but to flee.”
Her work in those refugee camps, for which the UNHCR won a Nobel Peace Prize, has given Didi unique insights, as has her aid work in the Caribbean nation of Haiti. She is now hoping to use her skills to support those fleeing Ukraine.
“I have a mobile home here at Sunrise Farm and, rather than offering just a room, we can offer a home to someone coming here,” she said.
“We have a nice farm with lots of space. If I can help one family, that’s what I’m going to do. I’ve heard of other people coming forward with caravans and other accommodation and we could really create a supportive community here.
“Nobody wants to be a refugee. Nobody wants to leave their homes behind. The Ukrainians coming here have lost everything. By and large, it’s women and children who are coming because the men are still in Ukraine fighting.”
Through her practice as a yoga teacher, Didi also spent some time in the Ukrainian capital.
“I was invited to Armenia in October and then stopped in Ukraine and run a meditation event in Kyiv,” she outlined.
“I saw that it is a very beautiful city and that the people are really kind and nice.”
With her own Irish ancestry, Didi is also very aware of our own country’s history of migration.
“My own relatives ran from the Famine and made a new live in America. I think Irish people are really generous and understand what it is like to have to flee from your home.”
Through the Sunrise Education Trust, which has farms and centres in Poland and Romania, support is being rolled out for refugees, most especially children.
“We have a psychologist working on the borders with Ukraine and they’re offering training so that people working children can help with their trauma,” she said.
“It’s really important to address that as soon as possible.”
To fund that work, Didi is organising a fundraising event in Scariff on Thursday, April 28, from 5pm to 8pm.
“We’re having an Indian, vegan dinner at Scariff Community Co-Op,” she explained.
“We have the award winning chef Lekhraj Kapil from The Curry Pot in Limerick. People can come and get a takeaway or they can sit out the back in the garden, there’s a lovely space there. We’ll also have Indian music with Jyosana and her band.
“She has a PhD in Ethnomusicology and will play a combination of Indian and other music.”
Donations can be made on the evening or through the account of The Sunrise Education Trust IBAN IE 85 AIBK93709665450080