Pittsburgh Happenings: Irish Search & Refugee Rescue
By Diane Byrnes
Do you find that during the holiday season you are solicited for more donations than at any other time of the year? I receive many more requests from November on and I feel badly that I cannot accommodate many of the requests. However here is one for you to consider.
The Irish Search & Rescue organization, Refugee Rescue, RR, has recently launched a £2m fundraising campaign to buy a ship to help save the lives of hundreds of refugees in the Mediterranean. Recently I had the opportunity to interview Joby Fox, one of the founders of Refugee Rescue. Joby tells me that they have deployed its rapid reaction vessel, the Mo Chara, in the Mediterranean.
It can hold about fifteen people at a time. With all of the refugees trying to travel from Africa to Italy, fifteen positions is not a lot of space. It takes many trips to transport a reasonable number of refugees. This group needs a new vessel.
Joby Fox is a Belfast born musician, peace activist, and co-founder who set up RR. The organization was formed in 2015 in response to the unfolding refugee crisis on the Aegean Sea. Currently RR operates alongside the German rescue ship, Sea Eye 4.
Joby tells me that many desperate people are lost daily as they try to make it to Europe. Unfortunately, so many lives are lost, men, women, and children, in the ravages of the sea. Refugee Rescue really could use some help in raising funds. If you have a few or many dollars you could spare, you can donate here: https://www.globalgiving.org/rojects/help-us-keep-rescuing-refugees-in-peril-at-sea.
Refugee Rescue is all about saving lives. There is no politics when it comes to saving lives. Here is another interesting article on his music. Fox’s music confronts the issues (irishecho.com).
Conway Mill Trust
Based in Belfast at the Conway Mill, a former linen mill renovated for use in the community of West Belfast for educational purposes overseen by Fr. Des Wilson until he passed away November 7, 2019, the Trust has raised some much needed funds that have been delivered in person to present grants for the various programs. During the pandemic, groups have been forced to make cuts to their programs and funds had been sent via other means. The commitment is still honored and many in need in West Belfast still receive some help.
There is much history with this establishment, along with the people who organized it and currently run it today. When Fr. Des was working at getting this off the ground back in 2008/2009, he went to Pittsburgh and several other states to raise funds. Pittsburgh ran with it and created the Conway Mill Trust.Help is provided to support voluntary Irish medium pre-school settings. https://altram.org/tuisti-parents .
Irish Republican History Museum
Since reopening, the Irish Republican History Museum has displayed items in relation to partition of Ireland. This is quite valuable, since the Unionists of Northern Ireland recently celebrated the 100th anniversary of this event.
Dove House, a Community Trust ‘Áisionad Theach /Ad Choilm,’ offers advice on training, advocacy and youth services. These folks work to ensure that the needs of local people are met, as best as possible. Back in the 1980s and early 90s, Dove House was a small, community-based organization that endeavored to promote self-help and social justice in the Bogside area of Derry.
Quite often, the group did not know if they could sustain themselves. Then Ed and Elizabeth Logue founded a trust fund, Doirse Dóchais (Doors of Hope), to help pay some of the needed utilities and other overhead expenses. After a period of time, Ed Logue passed away and Elizabeth Logue continued the work.
Dove House became the focus for organizations such as Conradh na Gaeilge, who began teaching classes in Irish. It was the Doors of Hope and the quiet determination of Elizabeth Logue which helped Dove House to survive and help to transform the Bogside Community of Derry.
Funds have been raised for Conway Mill Trust in Pittsburgh; it is one of the organizations that several AOH Divisions support. Sadly, Elizabeth Logue, 90, passed on September 11, 2021. She will be forever remembered.
Another group that benefits from the Conway Mill Trust is ‘Still Imprisoned Project, SIP.’ This group works to help those with addictions through counseling, advising, and assisting these families. Through assistance, the SIP volunteers have been able to distribute 50,000 care packages.
Are you traveling to Ireland soon? Consider visiting the ‘Museum of Free Derry.’ This venue has been named among “The Ten Best Attractions in Northern Ireland” by Trip Advisor! Northern Ireland is a beautiful part of the island of Ireland; one day soon, it should all be one Ireland, instead of split into two.
In January, The Gaelic Arts Society presents Marie Young on the Irish Language.” Marie is originally from Dublin and is a fluent Irish speaker. She is a fellow columnist for iIrish, writing the Easca Peasca column each month.
In January I will be interviewing Celtic Woman as they begin their 2022 Tour around the US. In February my guest in the WEDO studio will be James Gourley, Artistic & Musical Director of the River City Brass.