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Archves (21st December 2017): A Christmas messge to friends and readers of this blog

Dear Friends,

Christmas is just around the corner and then New Year is coming soon after! On this occasion, I would like to wish you all a very, very peaceful, and relaxing holiday with people that you love and care about and doing things that make you happy! Merry Christmas!

I also would like to wish you a very successful and prosperous 2018! I hope that the New Year will bring you satisfaction and that you will all have some of your dreams come true! May 2018 be filled with great people; personal and professional projects that you are all proud of!
2017 has been an eventful year for me, with November bringing sadness of my dad’s passing away. I will miss dad terribly, but I am relieved that he will not need to suffer pain anymore. May he rest in peace!

The year was also full of other experiences – many of which were wonderful, while the other ones less so.

I guess the most exciting one was a fact of succeeding buying a house in Portugal! After months of searching, and administrative hurdles, I finally can call myself an owner of the property in Obidos. I should actually write that I am a ‘co-owner’, as the house that is owned with a very dear friend of mine – and it is the project that we both participate in! I hope that as time goes on, you will all have a chance to visit. The place is big enough to have guests! Obidos and the surroundings are really spectacular. The municipality is situated just 70 km north-west of Lisbon, and is easily reachable from the airport. It is a medieval town that is registered by UNESCO as one of the World Heritage sites. It is just stunningly beautiful, and you can appreciate some of pictures here: www.obidos.pt (there is an English version of the site as well). The surroundings of Obidos are equally exciting, with some spectacular nature and architecture. When you add splendid weather, great food and wine… the place becomes completely irresistible! I really hope, you would be able to come and visit!

Another piece of good news relates to Tahir. You may remember me writing about it already some weeks ago. After a long period of waiting, we found out that the Immigration of Canada has granted his official sponsors (referred to as Group of 5 (G5)) a right to resettle him to Toronto. This is not yet a final success, and there is still some work and lots of waiting to be done, but essentially what the decision means is that the G5 is authorised to sponsor Tahir, given that Tahir successfully manages to go through a vetting process. The vetting process to which I am referring to, will include the Canadian authorities conducting an interview with him in Bangkok, as well as checking whether his UNHCR refugee status is real. They will also need to verify whether Tahir is not a threat to Canadian security. Tahir would also need to undergo his medical examination, and finally wait for his travel documents to be processed. Still sounds like a lot of work, but the vetting process is less stressful than actual waiting for the decision on whether he would be allowed to be sponsored at all. Things still can go wrong, but then we are hopeful that we will okay in getting him to Canada eventually. This should be the case, given that everything what we claimed in his application is genuine. We all hope that we will be able to see further progress on his case in 2018. Please keep your fingers crossed for Tahir and us! Once again, I would like to thank you with my whole heart, for the support that you are extending to us to help us secure Tahir’s better future! You are all wonderful!

My work has been a source of immense satisfaction for me, albeit many dramatic situations that my job confronted me with. I kept on travelling extensively around Asia and was involved in various projects: with work in Mongolia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, the Philippines, Myanmar and Bangladesh all being in the focus of my attention. Perhaps, the experiences around the conflict in western Myanmar and the massive exodus of hundreds and hundreds of thousands of people to Bangladesh requires some special mentioning from me. Suffering of Rohingya and passionate attempts to help them by countless others in Myanmar, Bangladesh and other parts of the world are both horrific and wonderful in the same time. When we all celebrate during this holiday period, let us spare a thought on fate of the refugees or displaced in all corners of the world. The displaced are too often marginalised, and their needs are misunderstood by many of our governments, media outlets that we use, various organisations and societies that we are parts of.

October 2017 was also marked by an opportunity that I was given to participate in an excellent training/course in Colombo of Sri Lanka. The training was arranged and conducted by UN OCHA team (in cooperation with other organisations) and dealt with issues relating to provision of effective humanitarian response to victims of catastrophes (whatever the sources of such catastrophes may be) by both civilian and military actors. You may easily imagine that mandates of civilian aid agencies and military organisations are often conflicting… So, it is necessary to set up clear rules on how to work together to be able to deliver aid that is effective, but also sensitive to needs of all those who need them. The course explored just that. An excellent and inspiring exercise that should become a necessity to all of us involved in humanitarian work in a professional manner.

There are so many other things that are worth mentioning and reflecting on, but perhaps I should stop here with those few highlights that I have written about. Perhaps, I should just underline that 2017 has been marked with lots of amazing friendships. I also experienced support from many, many people from various parts of the world and walks of life, which is really fantastic and encouraging. I should only hope that 2018 will be equally lucky and somehow happy.

Warmest regards to all of you, wherever you may be in the world,