On a mission
Having just returned from Zimbabwe, Louth woman and Concern worker Ruth Craig is more sure than ever that she's found the right job for her.
SPAIN, San Francisco and now Zimbabwe. Drogheda charity worker Ruth Craig has certainly seen the world in the past few years.
After spending time working with various multi nationals, Ruth from Bryanstown Village is now doing ' the job I always wanted to do'.
She has just returned from an educational visit to Zimbabwe where she was visiting Concern Worldwide programmes.
Ruth is a marketing executive with Concern in Dublin and she was accompanying two students and a teacher from Crana College in Donegal who were one of the top fundraisers in last Christmas's 24-Hour Concern Fast.
The visit to Zimbabwe gave them all a first-hand account of what Concern does with the donations it receives from the Irish public.
'We spent our week in Gokwe in western Zimbabwe. It is a rural part of the country. People live in mud huts, there is no electricity in homes and people do not have access to running water but people manage to make the best of their situation,' Ruth stated.
The group saw how Concern organises a Credit Union-style saving scheme whereby women contribute every week to the savings group, which means they can later borrow from it at cheap interest rates. With the money the women buy household goods and uniforms for their children. And the saving system also is able to invest profits back into the scheme.
'We visited a livestock project where Concern gives once-off vouchers so that people can buy animals. The small farmer has to provide ten per cent of the cost. They buy goats, cows, oxen and a woman I spoke to assured me that the scheme really makes a difference to their lives.
'We also supply seeds so that people can grow their own crops. With this help they are able to feed themselves and also sell food and then invest the money back into their small holdings,' Ruth explained.
Ruth was greatly impressed with the work Concern is doing in Gokwe and the efforts it makes to target the poorest of the poor.
Great emphasis is placed by Concern to stress the importance of gender equality.
'Girls leave school earlier than boys. And it seemed to us that it was the girls and women who do all the work. They were the ones who we saw carrying everything, from babies to water to firewood.
'Right now our projects are moving from emergency to development programmes. There is still much to do but the situation is improving and there is every reason to be extremely hopeful.
'It really was an amazing experience. No amount of reading is substitute for what we saw during our visit. We all understand now much better the programmes Concern is doing and how they are working for the people,' Ruth said.
The Drogheda woman is working with Concern for over a year. Before moving to Ireland's largest aid agency, Ruth worked with Heineken in Spain and the Irish Dairy Board in San Francisco.
'But I always wanted to do the work I am now doing,' she admited. 'We received an amazing welcome in Zimbabwe and people were so friendly. We must be making a difference.'
This year Concern is spending €2.9 million in Zimbabwe. It employs 87 people in the country, all of whom, bar two, are Zimbabweans.