Freed aid worker speaks to University of Limerick students

Aisling Hussey

Reporter:

Aisling Hussey

CONCERN worker Sharon Commins is encouraging students from the University of Limerick to consider a career in international aid, despite the security risks involved.

CONCERN worker Sharon Commins is encouraging students from the University of Limerick to consider a career in international aid, despite the security risks involved.

Speaking at the Current Issues in Irish Media seminar held in UL on Monday, Ms Commins said that although aid work has its dangers, it is a hugely rewarding career. She and her colleague Hilda Kawuki were held hostage in Darfur, Sudan for over three months in 2009 while working for the Irish charity Goal.

“I would absolutely recommend it as a career. You have a great sense of meaning in your life if you’re doing something that you love,” she said. “You get to meet amazing characters as well.”

Testament to her statement came from a native of Sudan present at the conference who praised Ms Commins for her work in the war-torn region.

Ms Commins, who studied journalism in DCU, criticised how the media covers issues in the developing world.

“For the first month after a big event there’s wall to wall coverage, but after that then you hear nothing,” she said. “Reporting can be very sensationalist and it’s very hard to get any real depth.”

The aid worker also stood by comments she made about the Irish charity Goal, who she claimed betrayed her and Ms Kawuki by not removing them from Sudan before their kidnapping.

“Ultimately, the buck stops with the aid agency,” she said. “I am glad that I publicly criticised them because I think that security practices in Ireland and further afield have changed. There is a lot more focus on security management of aid agencies.

“I chose not to make those comments until a year after I was released because I wanted to be 100 per cent sure that this is what I think and this is something I want to make public. Thankfully, it was the right decision,” she said.