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How I'm spending Christmas: aid workers' festive plans

They might not be home for Christmas, but Red Cross aid workers have big plans for the festive season.

Thursday December 15, 2016

Dorsa in Nigeria
After more than a year heading up crisis operations in Nigeria, Dorsa Nazemi is coming home for Christmas. Photo: Ramin Heshempour

It's cyclone season in the Pacific, so there's no Christmas leave for Cath Harris. 

While the Melbourne logistician will spend the holiday season in Fiji doing inventories of disaster relief supplies, she still has plans for Christmas day itself. 

"I want to have some of my work colleagues over and it'd be nice to have a tree with decorations and some fairy lights to get into the Christmas spirit. Fiji doesn't have many pine trees - it might have to be a palm tree - but I will definitely decorate it!" 

She also has the perfect, if nerdy, Christmas present in mind for herself. 

"I actually really want one of the new Red Cross Emergency Radios. These are so handy during a disaster! Trust me, my old one has seen me through a number of bushfires and cyclones."

Photo: Australian Red Cross/Darren James

More than 2,000 km across the Pacific, West Australian Sam Cleary is putting finishing touches on toilet blocks - the ultimate Christmas present for remote communities in Kiribati.  

Every family in the community of Betio has pitched in to build their own toilet.

"By pouring their blood, sweat and tears - in some instances, quite literally - into building the toilets, the community members will look after them in years to come, ensuring no one has to go back to defecating at the beach," Sam explains.

Photo: IFRC

In Nairobi, Catherine Gearing is supporting international Red Cross responses to crises across East Africa: from a region-wide drought to major conflicts in Burundi and South Sudan. 

She'll have just enough free time to Skype her folks in Sydney before Christmas dinner.  

"My mum's a really great cook but I'll miss the laughter. It always starts with the Christmas crackers and bad jokes and then continues through the rest of day." 

Meanwhile, after missing two Christmases with her family, Dorsa Nazemi is finally coming home to Perth.  

Dorsa has been working with the International Committee of the Red Cross in Nigeria, supporting people fleeing violence in many parts of the country, and helping to reunite lost children with their families. 

"I love my job and I enjoy seeing the impact my work has on communities that need our assistance. The past two years have been very tough working in an isolated context, away from your loved ones and the comforts of home, though," she says.

Dorsa will spend Christmas at her brother's house, possibly camping in the living room with nieces and nephews.  

"The best Christmas presents after living in isolation in a difficult context after two years is to be surrounded by your loved ones, drink good wine, eat good food, swim at the beach and just be," Dorsa says with a happy sigh. "That's what I want and I am sure they would give me that and more."  

You don't have to be an aid worker to help people in crisis this Christmas. A donation to our Christmas appeal is the perfect gift.