Christina Noble is an inspiration. Having overcome personal tragedy, trauma and abuse the Dubliner has, during her 26 years in Vietnam and Mongolia, touched the lives of over one million children. And she has no plans to stop.
Each year the Christina Noble Children’s Foundation (CNCF) raises $2.4 million to ensure that the children in its care and protection have access to the medical, social and education opportunities they’ve come to expect.
Noble, heading into her 71st year, plans for her dream to continue long after she’s gone. This fall, among her many engagements, she’s traveling around the USA, speaking at the New York Irish Center (Oct 25th) as well as IN-USA events, in Houston, Chicago and Boston.
For most Irish people Noble needs no introductions.
Named among TIME magazine’s 50 most inspirational figures of all time and a recent recipient of the Albert Schweitzer Leadership for Life Award in New York, Noble was born in Dublin in 1944 into a life of hardship. When she was 10 her mother died and her father, who was an alcoholic, was unable to cope. The four children were sent to separate Catholic orphanages and told their siblings were dead. After years of abuse and several attempts to escape she made her way home to Dublin where she slept in a hole in the ground in the Phoenix Park. During this time she was gang raped.
Eventually Noble discovered what she had been told was a lie. Her family was alive. She went to England to live with her brother when she was 18. There she met and married her husband and had three children, Helenita, Nicolas and Androula. For the next decade she endured domestic abuse. It was during this time, as the Vietnam War raged, she had her dream.
She dreamt of children, helpless and crying in the streets of Vietnam, running from napalm. However, this was no normal, fleeting dream.
For the past 26 years she has been helping the children she dreamed about. Not once has she stopped her tireless work. The Christina Noble Children’s Foundation, in Vietnam and Mongolia, assists and protects children with a wide range of supports, from ensuring they have enough to eat to to providing them with college scholarships.
Her life, and her three books, have been so inspiring that in 2014, the biopic “Noble,” starring Deirdre O’Kane was released.
Noble told IrishCentral that it is only recently that the enormity of what she has achieved has struck her.
'I said, "That's an awful lot!" Imagine having a simple dream and it becoming a reality, but this dream was different. Most dreams you can't remember them, or you might remember a bit. But this dream I just couldn't let it go,' she said.
“At the time I couldn't leave to go to Vietnam. I was going through my own hardships at the time with my marriage, I was working from morning to night and I had my children to think about, but it never left me.”
Eventually, 26 years ago, she visited Vietnam and little by little she began to establish programs to help children living alone, in danger on the streets.
Today, she told IrishCentral, “We have 101 projects. We've looked after, or a least touched the lives of, one million kids – it's over 700,000 children and over 3,300 community based projects in the delta, the jungle areas in Vietnam, all over the place."
What’s incredible is that after 26 years Noble is now going to the weddings and university graduations of children who were helped by the foundation. Noble says that within the foundation “there's no child that's not totally protected right to the end.”
She said what the children do and what they get out of the foundation’s programs is up to them. “It’s up to them but they have to work hard. They make that deal, that's a contract.”
Even those who have graduated and have found employment get gifted with a second-hand scooter to get to work. What the foundation provides these children is “possibilities.” They have the chance to be normal members of mainstream society having been once homeless and vulnerable.
Noble said, “It's a long journey and it's one that I've fought for – blood, sweat and tears – serious illness, but I just won't stop. I've cried sometimes worrying about the money.”
As her daughter Helenita put it, “Mum built this multi-faceted foundation. You've got to be made of stern stuff to go in and create a foundation that multi-faceted from music, art, sport to capital projects, community development, micro-finance loans, water wells, the building and equipping of schools and kindergartens, social and medical centers, graduation programs.
“Nobody in their right mind does that and thank God Mum's not in her right mind! Her attitude is whatever the kids need we'll do that.”
Despite everything she has witnessed and been through, Noble has immense faith both in God and people.
She told IrishCentral, "I love our Lord. I talk to him, very strongly sometimes, but he's stood by me through everything.
'People say to me, "If he loves you that much why did this and that happen to you?" I say, “How can you blame our Lord for what humans do?” It's very easy to do that. He gave us brains and a conscience to know what's right and wrong. It's up to us, isn't it?'
Although she says she doesn't believe in retribution she admits she would have no problem swinging for someone who hurt a baby. I tell her that even Pope Francis recently said he would swing for someone who tried to hit his mother.
She said, "I think he'd like me, the Pope, cause I've done it all and I won't stop."
For more information and to donate to the Christina Noble Children’s Foundation visit www.cncf.org.
On Saturday, Oct 25th, at 4:30pm, “Noble” will be screened at the New York Irish Center, in Queens. Visit www.newyorkirishcenter.org.
Noble will also be traveling to various Irish Network events including IN Chicago and IN Houston. She will also be keynote speaker at the IN-USA National Conference in Boston. For more information visit conference2015-inusa.nationbuilder.com.