Dominic MacSorley celebrates 40 years with Concern WorldwideDominic MacSorley celebrates 40 years with Concern WorldwideDominic MacSorley celebrates 40 years with Concern Worldwide

One act of kindness can change the world - Dominic MacSorley

One act of kindness can change the world - Dominic MacSorley

Concern Worldwide CEO Dominic MacSorley reflects on 40 years with the organisation, and thanks those of you who have helped make life better in the world's poorest communities across the world.

In the last year of her life, my mother asked that her collection of clothes – the good suits and coats that she had gathered over the years – be given to the Concern charity shop in the small seaside town of Newcastle, Co. Down.

As a child, she had been evacuated there during the Second World War, away from the bombs that struck Belfast. For her, it always symbolised a place of refuge and safety, something that resonated with her every time she saw families fleeing conflict on the evening news.

My mother’s donation was just one tiny part of an extraordinary network of support across the country.

It is the totality of these generous acts that makes up Concern, and that makes a world of difference to those in their moments of greatest need.

Dominic in his early days with Concern Worldwide.
Dominic in his early days with Concern Worldwide.

You are changing lives for the better

Countless lives in countless communities are all the better thanks to supporters like you.

I can say this with absolute certainty because I’ve been with Concern for 40 years. I’ve seen how the generosity of people like you makes an incredible difference to people caught up in times of extreme crisis.

Leaving a much-troubled Belfast in 1982 to join Concern as a volunteer, I ended up right in the heart of conflict – in places such as Cambodia, Darfur, Rwanda, and Kosovo.

I saw how support from people at home was so critical, enabling Concern to respond immediately and effectively to peoples’ most urgent needs and, critically, to stay on to help communities recover and rebuild.

What I learned over the years was that humanitarian assistance is not just about the things people need to survive, it is so much more.

It is about dignity, justice, and a new start. In a word: hope. In the raw immediacy of suffering and despair, it is the generosity of your support that enables us to be there, to protect, shelter, to bring light into the darkest, most difficult situations.

Rwanda in 1997. Photo: Concern Worldwide.
Rwanda in 1997. Photo: Concern Worldwide.

The story of Marie Ange and Aline

One of the darkest times was the genocide in Rwanda in 1994. I was there on the Rwanda-DRC border, leading the Concern team.

We worked night and day to support survivors with life-saving essentials including food and healthcare. It was an awful time and we were challenged like never before, but thankfully we were not alone.

Supporters like you helped us respond to thousands of people in their time of need, and helped them on their journey to a safer, better future in Rwanda.

One of the people who made that journey was a young woman named Marie Ange.

Displaced by the brutal conflict, she arrived at the Concern health centre alone, scared, pregnant and extremely malnourished. The Concern nurses helped to deliver her baby and when the time came for her to travel home, carrying her baby daughter in her arms, the food she received from the Concern nurses sustained her and her baby on the journey.

Twenty years later, a young woman called Aline walked into Concern’s offices. She told us that it was her mother, and herself as a baby, that our team had kept alive all those years before. Aline was in Europe with her university debating team, and her mother had told her to find our head office and to present us with a hand crafted basket from Rwanda – a thank you to Concern for our support all those years ago.

That basket still sits on my desk.

Aline as a child with her mother Marie Ange
Aline as a child with her mother Marie Ange

World turned upside down

Inspired by her mother’s story, Aline is now the founder of her own charity, African Dream Movement, which helps other young people affected by conflict and poverty.

Now a strong young leader in her own right, Aline’s story, and that of her mum’s, is a powerful reminder of how basic support for people at their toughest moments can continue to change countless lives into the future.

There have been so many more of those tough moments in the last two years.

All of us have seen our lives turned upside down by this awful pandemic. But in a time that tested many of us, you were one of those remarkable people who never stopped looking beyond your own street and your own borders – to those who needed help in other parts of the world.

From the monthly donors, the cash supporters, the Concern Gift givers, to the legacy pledgers. From the fasters, volunteers, activists, to the advocators, the campaigners, the runners and trekkers - even through lockdown you found ways to continue this lifeline of support. And that compassionate spirit – of never giving up – is truly inspiring to our teams on the ground.

For that I want to thank you.

"This is my job. I cannot sit home in fear."

Dominic MacSorley and Denise. Photo: Concern Worldwide.
Dominic MacSorley and Denise. Photo: Concern Worldwide.

In these last two years, I have often thought of a woman I met in Liberia during the Ebola epidemic of 2014, named Denise.

Denise was a community health worker who, armed with health leaflets, a thermometer and her knowledge of how to stop the spread of the virus, went out day after day, knocking on every door to save lives in her community.

Denise’s commitment to keeping her community safe was astounding. When I asked her about the risks to her own life during what was a truly terrifying epidemic, she simply replied,

‘This is my job. I cannot sit home in fear.’

Tragically, while Denise was focused on protecting others, she did eventually contract Ebola herself. Not long after this photo was taken, she became very ill and never recovered.

I keep the photo of Denise here on my desk, to remind me of her professionalism, her determination and above all, her incredible bravery that saved so many. The courage of front line health workers such as Denise resonates now even more powerfully during this pandemic.

When I look at the photo of us together now, I know that her selflessness lives on in the people she saved.

I cannot tell you how heartening it has been for us here at Concern, that supporters like you have continued to show such resilience and kindness in this time of unprecedented global need. Because the truth is, that it is an extremely challenging time.

The impact of people like Martha

Dominic MacSorley and Martha. Photo: Concern Worldwide
Dominic MacSorley and Martha. Photo: Concern Worldwide

If there is one thing that really hits home for me during my time at Concern, other than the incredible kindness of supporters like you, it is this phenomenal strength and the bravery of people who we work with.

That’s why the final story I want to share with you is of one of our own staff member, Martha, from South Sudan.

Seven years ago, she was one of 2 million people displaced during the brutal civil war in her country. She arrived at the Concern nutrition centre with her youngest child – both were ill and severely malnourished.

Within a matter of weeks, her child was healthy again. Martha also slowly recovered her health, and was determined to stay at the treatment centre and help other mothers like her.

She went on to study at night, taking all the training available, and is now helping to run the centre.

I was in South Sudan at a great time a few years ago. A peace agreement was in place and Martha and the team were able to leave the camp and join the Concern 50th anniversary celebration.

Looking radiant in a long red sparkling dress, that evening Martha told me that she was there to celebrate her own achievement and that night would dance for the first time in years.

These are the people who astound me with their humanity in the midst of the most inhumane, horrific situations. They inspire me every day and remind me why I am here.

Thank you

Concern midwife Rebekka is sees Chagawa (28), who is visiting for a check up. Photo: Abbie Trayler-Smith / Concern Worldwide
Concern midwife Rebekka is sees Chagawa (28), who is visiting for a check up. Photo: Abbie Trayler-Smith / Concern Worldwide

The world may be going through a tough time right now, but I hope that these stories help to remind you that there’s much to be hopeful for.

I have stayed with Concern for all of these years because of the impact that I’ve seen. Your support is what makes that impact possible; it’s what makes Concern so effective, and what enables us to assist people today, not tomorrow or next week.

And it enables us to stay, long after the news story has moved on, to help communities rebuild and recover.

From one humanitarian to another, thank you.

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