A warm wind of kindness sweeps across the globe
I am genuinely overwhelmed at the kindness and enthusiastic response I received recently when I threw a request across the globe asking for help with my upcoming children’s book, about a beautifully carved tree in Clontarf, sitting on Dublin Bay. The Book is called the Tree by the Sea. It is a fantasy story, but based on a real tree, and we have an accompanying App which is factual as well as a website full of lovely facts about our natural world. The book is going to print this weekend and it will be on sale both online and in Supervalu from October with all proceeds going to the charity To Children With Love. It is stunningly illustrated by Bronagh Lee, in fact, her drawing made something magical from my simple words.
Do look out for the tree. Bring your children and make a wish, I did, and it works.
The following are people that I want to give a huge hug to for the exceptional work they all did out of pure kindness. It was like a small butterfly shook her wings and it ended in a storm of goodwill across many countries.
As you will know by now, the book is fantasy, however, I do believe the magic created by this story is real, but then I have always believed in magic.
Keith McDonnell is an old friend of mine and a great friend to the charity. He is the Founder of Extreme Island, amazing company that does the best walking tours around Ireland, amongst other mad adventure stuff. He found the App developer for us; they will never forgive him I suspect. We wanted an App that was full of real facts, but fun ones, for older kids and students as the book is for younger ones. It has been kindly donated to us by a wonderful company called iGuide Mobile Applications Ltd. I think they were ready to throw their laptops at the wall with our endless changes and ‘scope creep’ (a new term that they shared with me on one of their email exchanges). In fact, we have just heard that Japanese students are interested in using the App in Japan, which is just fab.
The Braille and multiple additional needs versions
The book is translated into Irish and English only, but also to Braille and other additional needs platforms by ChildVision, the children’s charity. They will also make a tactile book full of feathers and other touchy-feely things for blind children to experience, which I am so honoured to be a part of. ChildVision will keep these in their libraries for special story telling days. We are thrilled to work with another charity on this. Charities should work together more often.
It was magnificently translated into Irish by a wonderful man called Fearghas MacLochlainn, a Dublin man, now living in Connemara. It is not easy to translate rhymes and get it right and he did a stunning job. Many thanks to our volunteer Mairtin O’Dubhghaill and his wife Fil for their help and advice. Many thanks to Roisin Ni Cheallachain also for her help with the App details.
Once I saw the App in Irish, I thought, why not get the App introduction page and facts about the animals of the tree page into as many languages as we can. Because of the nature of my work life, and the incredible people that I know across the globe, I sent out an email request, having no idea what, if anything, would come back.
A giant thanks to Ambassador Eoin O’Leary for organising the Chinese translations. Eoin was my Ambassador in Russia, he then went on to China, and was always so helpful in every situation. He solved the Chinese translation for us.
The Ukrainian and the Hungarian
Eoin then connected me to Therese Healy, Ireland’s recent and first Ambassador to the Ukraine. I’ve known Therese for many years, again through Russia. She is super-efficient and always so kind and interested. Firstly, Therese arranged the Ukrainian translation, then she organised connections to the Irish Embassy in Hungary, and with the support of the Irish Ambassador, H.E. Mr. Ronan Gargan and Marianna Joo, soon our Hungarian translation arrived.
Another Russian friend of mine, Jason McCarthy, connected me to a Serbian vet and author of beautiful children’s books, Nikoleta Novak, who did a stunning job in Serbian Cyrillic. Nikoleta is also a writer of children’s books and created the beautiful Woodland Tales series, which has been published in ten different countries.
I then thought of Kim McCabe, an old friend of the charity, now living in Egypt and developing a very successful App of his own. His Dad, Monnie, is a doctor and took on the job with a big old dictionary as he does not trust Google, and so our beautiful Egyptian translation arrived in stunning script. Monnie struggled a bit with some of the animals as they do not exist in Egypt, but he got there in the end. A beautiful man who worked with much love and care.
One of my oldest school friends, Liz, married a very interesting Dutch man, Micheil Hoefsmit. He is the Technology Project Manager for the Olympics in Madrid, and like most Dutch, super-efficient. He had it done immediately, only a few days before the Olympics were due to open no less! Dear God, a serious operator.
My long-time friend from Dublin, Jonathan Bell, married one of the nicest men you could meet in the USA, Ed, who is from the Philippines. Ed decided to translate it into Tagalog. I had never heard of it, but it is a casual form of the Filipino language. It is really something to look at all the different alphabets. We were dazzled as they arrived.
Sabine Poyer has lived in Ireland for the past five years. She is the epitome of French chic and charm. Sabine is like a family member to us. She now lives in the prettiest village in Normandy, and she did a super job on the French translation.
Many moons ago, my Godfather, Sean, had a dear friend who worked with him in Arnott’s Men’s department, a dishy Italian, Giovanni, with very typical Italian looks, long hair, so dramatic, so kind and sweet. Gio and I remained friends long after Sean passed away. Gio was my Italian translator and a joy to work with.
Some years ago, Sophie, my daughter, worked in New Zealand, way too far away for my liking, but she had a great job working with a beautiful charity called Home and Family. I visited New Zealand and met Val Carter, the CEO. We became friends and nanas at the same time and have remained friends ever since. I spoke to Val about the book, and she was thrilled as they also have a big carved tree there and treasure the beauty of nature. She encouraged one of her Board members, Te Kauri, into translating the App into Māori and it looks stunning. So thrilled to have it.
I wanted a Syrian translation as I felt that maybe some of the little refugees in Ireland may use it, but how would I find a Syrian? I then thought of a woman doing great work, Eibhlin Byrne, Director of the Irish Refugee Protection Programme and former Lord Mayor of Dublin. Eibhlin sorted it immediately. I have since spoken to people in that area and it seems they will use the book and the App as part of an induction programme where little ones can read the book, then go to the tree and make a wish. Eibhlin connected me to a beautiful Syrian refugee living in Ireland, with better English than me, Marwa Wahhoud, and in came the Syrian translation. It is stunning to look at. It is Arabic actually, but understood by Syrians, so that was all I needed.
The Afghan Farsi
Then the tragedy struck in Afghanistan, and again I felt if we could use the book to help little ones coming here, why not. As it happened, I was visiting Mosney Village Direct Provision Refugee Centre, and I met an Afghan who has just offered to do the translation. I was utterly blown away by the place. I have been in hundreds of institutions in my work life, prisons, orphanages, shelters, camps, residential care homes, but I have never seen one as well run as this. It is run by an impressive CEO, Adrian Gates. It is so cheerful, such a beautiful, efficient, warm, facility, really jaw-dropping. A world class centre of excellence.
I knew Mosney as a child, Dan Lowreys Bar, with the swimmers in the glass windows floating past like big white hippos, as you downed your Miwadi! Mosney is a far cry from that now. I was proud to be Irish and to know that we welcome people in this manner, to their new lives. I just love the idea that the book, App, and website may bring even a drop of joy to children who have lost everything, a drop of joy in their broken, sad world. Thank you Hadi.
My husband works with a lovely Polish girl called Anna Solowska. She was so willing to help and did a fantastic job on the Polish translation.
My dear friend and volunteer to the charity, Egor Zubets, did the Russian Cyrillic translation. Once again, he is Russian, lives in Moscow and annoyingly his English is better than mine. In fact, he often corrects my English – so irritating!
I was a bit stuck on Spanish. Oddly I do not know too many Spaniards, but recently I did a talk to LinkedIn staff in London and a wonderful girl called Rosa Guzman was chatting to me about our work and offered to help. Rosa is Mexican. Bingo! I had my Spanish translation.
Aedeen Linnane, the very talented window dresser for the With Love charity shops, is mother-in-law to Vanessa Leone from Brazil. Vanessa lives in Canada now, so Aedeen asked her if she could help with Portuguese and before we knew it, we had our lovely Portuguese translation. At this stage we were close to covering the globe.
Africa, now who did I know there? When I was a child growing up in Beaumont, we were all friends with an exceptional girl called Elaine Bannon. When Elaine was 30, she was ready for a new adventure in her life, and so she packed her bags for Africa, as you do! Elaine was always a kind, very organised, caring person and so she ended up in Kilimanjaro living with a tribe in a village there. Elaine now runs a charity there and has done massive work in the local village. She has three magnificent daughters and was thrilled to get the local schoolteacher to do the Swahili translation. It is Kiswahili and covers many African countries like The Congo, Malawi, Kenya, and Tanzania.
And so, the warm wind of kindness kept blowing.
One of my husband’s oldest friends, many moons ago, went off to the Lisdoonvarna Matchmaking Festival to find music and maybe love. Vinny was typically Irish, not so tall, red hair, freckles, a fabulous sense of humour. He met a Swedish blonde who took all our breaths away. Initially we did not believe him, and blamed Guinness on his illusions, but it was true. He met the woman of his dreams there. Bitten was stunning, and still is, inside and out. Quintessentially Swedish. Vinny went to live there very soon after, and it has been his home ever since. Vinny and Bitten took themselves off to a log cabin in the forest for silence and sat and did our beautiful Swedish translations. They’ve had a newfound interest in animals ever since. Don’t we all!
Four years ago, I was invited to address a crowd of 9,000 people, in a stadium in Vietnam about my work. I was thrilled to be asked, but to be honest 9,000 is a big audience – butterflies to say the least. I spoke in English, but it was translated into multiple languages by many different translators, as there were many cultures in the audience. My main translator was Victor Vladovich, a Russian guy, easy on the eye to say the least, and so nice, so polite, so skilled at languages. Victor is living in Vietnam, with perfect English, Russian and Vietnamese and I’m sure, other languages. Victor and I have remained friends. He did a stunning job on the Vietnamese translation as I knew he would, again, it is beautiful to look at.
There are more translations on the way. German, Hindi, and Japanese are in the works. We could have used Google translate for them all, but, in general, it just does not work the way caring humans do.
The Audio Book
The audio version of the book was recorded by Amy Creighton and her hubby, Jodi Trehy, who are both in the music business and neighbours of mine. Amy is a very special person with a heart of gold. She has a voice like a lark and her reading of the book is just captivating. Jodi added in hilarious animal sounds to bring it all to life. My favourite is the typewriter noise where the animals are typing the note to Tommy Craggs, the carver. The audio book will be free on our website, and as promised to Amy, we are hoping to get it to children around the world who have very little joy in their lives.
Thank you all
I just had to write all of that down, as the kindness was overwhelming. A warm wind blew across the globe at a time in our world when there is too much darkness, I just felt it needed telling.
I cannot thank everyone enough for their support. I believe in the goodness of people, and I definitely believe in magic.
I made a wish at the tree many moons ago and it worked. Maybe you should try it.
The Tree by the Sea is on Instagram @thetreebythesea. Please feel free to read and share.