Saturday 18 November 2017

Dublin granny heads to Greek island to help Syrian refugees

Sheila Geraghty with two girls she met while volunteering in South Africa
Sheila Geraghty with two girls she met while volunteering in South Africa

A Dublin grandmother is travelling to the Greek island of Kos today to begin volunteer work with Syrian refugees who have fled there.

Sheila Geraghty, from Monkstown in south Dublin, said she felt that she had to do so because of the "heart-breaking" refugee crisis. She will spend a month volunteering on the Greek islands.

"I felt compelled to do it as a humanitarian, as a mother and I'm going to be a grandmother for the second time in March," she said.

"The photograph of Aylan Kurdi, the little Syrian boy who was found washed up on the beach really hurt my heart - he is the same age as my grandson.

"I am hoping I can do something in a small way - I am flying to Kos, but I am prepared to go to any of the Greek islands and wherever I am needed," she added.

Sheila made the decision after being "touched" by the story of two gardai who spoke on RTE's Ryan Tubridy Show about their work with refugees.

"I did six months' volunteer work in South Africa, so I know what I am letting myself in for," she told the Herald.

Sheila - who spent six years living in the Middle East in the 1980s - is involved in the catering business. She previously looked after the catering for the famous Windmill Lane Recording Studios in Dublin.

The mother-of-two is hoping to use her catering skills to help supply food for the Syrian refugees based in Kos.

Sheila said she was not sure what to expect, but would keep an open mind when she arrives on the Greek island.

"I am being realistic - you never know what you are going into until you are there," Sheila said.

"I spent six years living in the Middle East when my children were very young, so I have an understanding of different cultures. I feel that Irish people are great at blending in.

"I am hoping to stir the pot in terms of organising catering, but I am also open to helping in some other way," she said.

The Dubliner is funding the journey herself and held a rock music night to help raise money for the refugees.

While looking forward to the experience, Sheila also said that it was important as a volunteer not to burn yourself out.

"You can't do it 24 hours per day, seven days per week," she said. "It is important to remove yourself from the situation on occasion and have a glass of wine with friends," she added.

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