In his 2012 book ‘Inside Irish Aid’, former Director General of Irish Aid Ronan Murphy spoke about the Irish impulse to serve overseas, saying that ‘the first place to look for the reasons behind this extraordinary level of caring for the poorest has to be Ireland’s missionaries. Their numbers have fallen but their influence is still felt everywhere’. That has certainly been my experience also.
In 2021, I was invited to take on the role of Board Chairperson. Having been inspired by the work of Irish missionaries throughout my career in overseas development, and already serving on the Board since 2019, this is a challenge and responsibility that I willingly accepted. Missionaries continue to put into practice a commitment to the poor, defined by their faith. They devote their lives to living and working among marginalised communities in some of the most challenging environments in the world, helping to improve peoples’ lives in practical ways and reminding us, through their example, of our responsibilities to those who are less fortunate. They have been, and continue to be, great ambassadors for Ireland.
Conditions for those in international development work continued to be challenging in 2021, certainly no less so for missionaries. In 2021, our members began a year still very much impacted by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, which has been exacerbated by hunger, loss of income, and children out of school. All of these will have knock-on effects on the lives of the vulnerable for years to come. 2021 also saw a heightened level of natural disasters and climate change-related weather events that further threaten food security and household safety for millions of poor people across the Global South. Yet, despite these obstacles, Misean Cara’s members helped to improve the lives of almost 1.9 million people, adapting to changing needs by drawing on decades of knowledge about the communities they work with. We continue to be inspired by their example.
In 2021, we saw valuable data emerge from Misean Cara’s Standardised Results Framework (see pages 2 and 3), showing the concrete impact of the collective efforts of our members. For example, funding to education projects in 2021 resulted in almost 61,000 people gaining access to quality, life-transforming education, with a drop-out rate of less than 3%. During a year in which COVID-19 continued to be a dominant public health issue, our Results Framework shows that almost 950,000 people saw improved health outcomes as a result of our members’ projects. These are impressive results, enabling us to demonstrate the impact of the unique missionary approach to development.
Over the course of 2021, the Board worked closely with CEO John Moffett on the development of the next Misean Cara strategic plan, for the years 2022 – 2026, with input from members, staff, Irish Aid and other donors. We recognise that there will be challenges in this period. The numbers of Irish missionaries working overseas continue to decline. However, we also see a growing number of very capable non-Irish missionaries taking over. On another front, we need to diversify further our income streams and reduce our reliance on Irish Aid. To that end, we are delighted to report that a new member contribution scheme was agreed with our members in 2021 with early indications that it has been a success. As you will see in this report, our fundraising efforts are also focusing on new relationships with foundations, trusts and corporate funders.
The past year has been one of broad transition on the Board as we said farewell not only to former Chair Justin Kilcullen, but also to four other members who stepped down after years of dedicated service to Misean Cara: Fr. Brendan Carr (Board Vice-Chair), Sr. Liz Fletcher, Fr. David Kenneally and Colin Wrafter. We extend our sincere gratitude to those who have given service over many years, and likewise we welcome those who joined the board in 2021.
Misean Cara’s impact through the work of Irish missionaries would not be possible without the generous support of Irish Aid and our other donors, the dedicated staff in Misean Cara and the members who deliver on the ground. We owe you all a debt of gratitude.
For further information about our work or to comment on this report, please contact:
4th Floor, Callaghan House,
13-16 Dame Street, Dublin 2,
D02 HX67, Ireland
Tel: +353 (0) 1 405 5028