ONE of Ireland's newest citizens, who reaped financial success at the peak of the boom, has found the true meaning of life as a special needs assistant to school children.
Originally from Colombia, Alexander Mendez (37) was one of 3,092 people from 160 countries who received Irish citizenship at ceremonies held at the National Convention Centre in Dublin.
Alexander came to this country speaking very little English – but as an architect working in property-obsessed, boomtime Ireland, that did not matter.
Life was good for a while and then with the recession came difficulties – but he managed to survive. “It was a little bit tougher but it wasn't that bad. There is always a hand waiting for you. When one door closed three or four opened,” he said.
The most important thing was realising the importance of being flexible and having the perspective to see that he had to change his career for the moment.
A job as a special needs assistant at Beneavin De La Salle College in Finglas, Dublin, came up and Alexander quickly realised that he loved this work more than anything. He said he has learned “so many things” from the children – chiefly that human beings are not so very different wherever we come from and whatever the background.
“If you want to know a society, go to a school and you will see. It's very interesting work,” he added.
Love of Ireland, the people, food and even our weather was the common theme among the new citizens.
Rabia Rizvi (27), originally from Karachi in Pakistan and now living in Maynooth, Co Kildare, admitted a sneaking fondness for the traditional full Irish breakfast even though she cooks mostly Pakistani food in her own home.
While Nutan Adukar, originally from Mumbai, India, and now living in Clonmel, Co Tipperary, was planning on eating cake to celebrate becoming an official Irish woman.
“I love it here – it's heaven,” she said, admitting that she misses her family in India – but the company of her daughters, one-year-old Tanisha and Saloni (9), helps a lot.