My parents were Irish. My father was from Kerry and my mother from Galway. They raised us, a family of five, in a large pub in Vauxhall Bridge Road, London. They shared a strong faith and social conscience.
So perhaps it`s not surprising I went to India with Voluntary Service Overseas where I worked as a teacher for two years in a Hindu orphanage. I had just left school at 18 so living in India had a life-long impact on me. It broadened my awareness of people of another culture, of other faiths and of no faith.
This experience has led me to join groups like Pax Christi, a Catholic organisation involved in justice and peace issues. Until recently, I was a member of the Department of Interreligious Relations for the Catholic diocese of Hexham and Newcastle. I became chair for a few years. One of the events we began seven years ago was a joint Christian and Muslim women`s event.
You can read more about this event here: www.rcdhn.org.uk/interfaith/jesmond17.php
Several extraordinary people visited South India when I was there. One was Jiddu Krishnamurthi (1895-1986), a thinker and religious teacher whose talks I attended. Another was Mother Teresa, who visited the orphanage where I lived. A few years later I returned overland to India to revisit my old project. I spent a week at the Sri Aurobindo ashram in Pondicherry before going to Kolkata for four months volunteering with Mother Teresa's nuns. I helped the aspirants and novices with their English; lived at the children`s home and went to the Home for the Sick and the Dying once a week. Those months remain the most powerful experience of my life.
Since then I have maintained my links with Mother Teresa's order, where I taught English as a volunteer for decades at their house in London. I have seen their work in many parts of the world. It varies according to need e.g. in Japan it is with unmarried mothers and in Colombia it is with elderly people.
My first career was in journalism and I won two runner-up prizes for the Catherine Pakenham Young Women Journalist Award. I published my autobiography in 2007. To see more about my writing, click here.
Later I taught English as a second language at Hampstead Garden Suburb Institute, London whilst working freelance as a journalist. I took an MA in Peace Studies at Bradford University. My thesis was on Hannah Arendt's political thought and the situation in Northern Ireland.
After a spell teaching in Spain I trained to be both an enneagram teacher and a dreamgroup facilitator in San Francisco. On my return I came to live in the North East, in historic Wallsend, the end of Hadrian's Wall in Newcastle-Upon-Tyne.