I had always intended to leave Ireland, to move to and live in an international environment and to “sow my wild oats” abroad. A “quiet” - but determined! - non-conventional at heart, I was too young to join the condom trains to Belfast, too innocent to loose my virginity before I left, too rebellious to accept misogynistic and church-heavy rules in Ireland, so, on 1.1.1978 (at age 20), I left Ireland and took the plane to Brussels to work for the EEC. I remained an employee for exactly 35 years, moving to and living in several countries (Belgium, USA, Czech Republic, Norway), revelling in and adapting to life in the international lane, growing up, marrying, giving birth and becoming a woman of international outlook and spirit, which i remain to this day!
I had a baby (now all grown up and the best son a mother could ever have!), divorced, moved to Oslo and, after three years there and following a request by my mother who was ill, I returned to Ireland after 35 and a half years. Limerick had changed (as had all the country!): international in outlook, egalitarian, accepting, modernised. I decided that I would treat my move to Limerick as I had all my other moves to date: cast the net wide, join everything, gradually find my base! And I was very, very lucky to come into contact with two members of the International Women’s Organisation: Kenya and Christine! They proposed me for membership, I was accepted and joined in organised events and get-togethers with gusto! It was wonderful to be back “home” and to meet such outstandingly caring and helpful women from all corners of the world! I felt that i had left Ireland at the right time, and I had returned at the right time!
Of course, I was to learn first hand of how supportive this wonderful band of women could be. Within a year, I needed chemotherapy. Not someone to do things by half, of course I would go full-force, be quite ill, loose my hair - the works! But the wonderful friends I made in the IWO immediately came to my aid: a rota was set up to drive me up to/collect me from Galway clinic where I had my treatments. It was a tough year (and, yes, it takes a year for hair to grow back - in case you ever wondered!); but I had food delivered by this wonderful band of women and grew back my strength. I partook in all activities organised by the IWO, had the honour to serve as President, and I will continue to do all I can to support and publicise the organization and the wonderful group of women who are members. Sisterhood. Support. That is what it is all about.
This year has been the strangest year for all of us - and, God knows, we will all breathe a sigh of relief when 2020 passes and, hopefully, re-grasp with vigour the in-person activities once it becomes safe to do so once more. The camaraderie of the IWO is such that it has survived the pandemic as many others have through zoom contacts, zoom coffee mornings, zoom book club, etc etc. We missed our End of Year lunch in May; we missed our Welcome Back Coffee in September; we missed our weekly coffee mornings; we missed our Christmas get together; we missed our monthly (in-person) meetings — not to mention our monthly Shanghai and our weekly mahjong etc etc. What a year. But it has been great to see smiling zoom faces at some of our coffee mornings each week - not only from Ireland but also from all over the world I hasten to say: Lin in the Philippines; Sheila in Cyprus, Susan in Switzerland, etc etc. Keyna keeps us updated on life in Malaysia during the pandemic! And, once we can mingle again and have all had our vaccine, I am sure that we will have a mega get-together of some kind - probably combining all of the above! We can do it. We have done it before and we will do it again! That is the strength and glory of the international and Irish women who are members of the IWO. Strong women from all backgrounds and each bringing her special strength and contribution to the whole membership. I miss seeing you all in person but I will be back when we get going again next year!
I think the committee has done a monumental job this year, coping with the unexpected and soldiering on through adversity. Thank you Soo Ling, Breda (O’Connor), Michele, Theresa, P.A.…. and not to forget our wonderful activities coordinators (Val, Breda(O’Carroll), Louise, Christine, Breda(O’Connor), Alyson): looking forward to seeing you all next year! It has not been easy I am sure but you have all done a remarkable job and we all appreciate your hard work!
Happy Happy Christmas. Stay safe, stay well, wear a mask - and stay in touch! We are all here for each other and we always will be. I miss you all and look forward to getting back in personal contact asap in 2021! Roll on the New Year, safe in vaccination and post-pandemic!