A WEST Cork woman, described as one of Goal’s most passionate and dedicated aid workers has been honoured with a Presidential Distinguished Award from President Michael D Higgins at Áras an Uachtaráin.
Mary T Murphy, from Reenaree, near Macroom, has spent her entire working life caring for and supporting those affected by illness, drought, conflict and poverty.
She has more than 27 years’ experience working to improve the health of the poor in the developing world, specialising in areas such as healthcare, nutrition, HIV and AIDS, mother-and-child healthcare, and gender equality.
Currently employed as refugee programme manager for Goal in Ethiopia, her role sees her take charge of the organisation’s large-scale emergency refugee programmes that cater for tens of thousands of South Sudanese and Eritrean refugees.
Following a decade working and training as a staff nurse in the special care and intensive care units of Our Lady’s Hospital for Sick Children in Crumlin, Dublin, Mary T joined Goal in 1994 as a medical co-ordinator in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where she helped respond to the refugee crisis precipitated by the Rwandan genocide.
After 10 years with US NGO, International Medical Corps (IMC) in Burundi, she re-joined Goal in 2008.
‘I’m very proud to accept this award from President Higgins, but I am accepting it on behalf of all the people we work with in Ethiopia and all my colleagues,’ she stressed. ‘I know that I would not be here were it not for them.’
As refugee programme manager, Mary T regularly travels right across Ethiopia and spent some time recently in the Somali region close to the Ethiopia-Somali border. She says the people there are in desperate need of assistance.
‘The Somali region has experienced a huge drought in recent times,’ she said. ‘As you are driving along the road, you will see a camel carcass. After another few kilometres, you will see another camel carcass. They have had a huge problem with lack of water. It’s a little better now, food has been brought in and Goal is responding, but the people there still need all the help they can get, as do those suffering from drought right across the country.’
When asked to explain why she continues to work as a humanitarian aid worker almost three decades after she began, Mary T replied: ‘It’s what I love to do.’
General manager of Goal, Celine Fitzgerald, said the organisation was very proud of Mary T and the work she continues to carry out in Ethiopia.
‘Mary T has spent her entire working life – almost 40 years – caring for the sick, the poor, and the vulnerable at home and abroad’ she said.
‘She has spent much of that time working in some of the inhospitable, underprivileged and challenging parts of the world, tending to people who have been deeply affected by poverty, conflict and hunger.
The Goal boss added: ‘For 12 of those years, she has worked tirelessly and passionately for Goal, always on the front line, always prominent, always ready. She has not just been an example to everyone in the organisation. She has been an inspiration.’