Andy Hamilton and Tim Kamboakai at Greenhill YMCA Photo: Tom Burke/YCI Andy Hamilton and Tim Kamboakai at Greenhill YMCAs 101st Birthday on 5th June 2015

As we reach Ireland on our Tools For Recovery Tour, Andy Hamilton from the YMCA Ireland shares how the complexities of crises often means the effects continue long after the new headlines stop.

Recently two friends and myself from Northern Ireland were at a YMCA Europe event with 11 national movements represented. On the final day amongst emotional goodbyes I got a firm handshake from a new friend, he looked me intently in the eye and in a somewhat serious and somber tone said ‘look after yourself, be safe when you get home’. That short interaction was a heartfelt way of saying, ‘don’t get shot, don’t get caught up in a bomb attack, and whatever you do, don’t go to the other side!’

It’s difficult to communicate the realities of life in what is referred to as a post-conflict society. Vivid images of petrol bombs exploding off armoured police vehicles are what take root in people’s imaginations. How to explain the nuances and complex interplay of politics and religion and violence and class and paramilitaries and policing and division within division? So a simple ‘Protestants hate Catholics and you stick to your own area or risk getting attacked’ summary will suffice. This time we tried hard to give a balanced view of life in Northern Ireland, striving to clarify that not everyone is part of a paramilitary group and we even have Protestant and Catholic friends! Strive we may, however the sensational news bites that everyone remembers are the stories of hatred filled brick-throwing across community lines.

Liberia is a country that too knows the power of the news bite cycle. The Ebola outbreak struck fear around the globe. It was the go to talking point. ‘Isn’t that awful what’s happening in Africa’ followed quickly by, ‘I hope I don’t get it’. When the world watches in from afar, ludicrous assumptions are made, like everyone in Northern Ireland is part of a paramilitary group, or the whole of Africa is affected by the Ebola outbreak. The concern lasted weeks, until new breaking headlines distracted the world. However, the Ebola crisis didn’t just leave. Well, I’m guessing it didn’t, I’m as ignorant as anyone else. But what I do know is this – as with the conflict in Northern Ireland, the Ebola outbreak in countries such as Liberia has complexities and nuances that are difficult to explain and harder to understand. It would be absurd to make a comparison of conflict in Northern Ireland with the Ebola crisis in Liberia. The comparison I will make however is the presence of the YMCA in communities facing difficult and devastating realities that don’t simply disappear when the mass media coverage ends.

This week, 1st – 6th June, YMCA Ireland is adopting as YMCA Week. We are thrilled to have Tim Kamboakai from Liberia YMCA and Tom Burke from Y Care International joining with us in Northern Ireland for the final two days. Such a fantastic opportunity to share and encourage one another in the transforming work our movement is engaged in. During this week YMCA Ireland will be supporting Y Care International’s Tools for Recovery from Ebola campaign.

Andy Hamilton, YMCA Ireland

The UK government will every donation match pound for pound thanks to the UK Aid Match scheme. This means twice as many people reached, twice as much hope offered. Donate online to the Tools for Recovery Appeal today or text YGIV30 with your donation amount to 70070.