Tom Arnold: The Humanitarian

Tom Arnold 2

He has helped starving children in Africa, acted as an advisor in the Irish Farming Advisory Service, became the Chief Economist at the Department of Agriculture and he eventually took the reins as Head of the Irish Constitutional Convention.

It would be his work at Concern, however, that would give his career a new meaning; helping turn the organisation from scrappy street kid to a globally recognised brand.

Tom’s work with Concern began in the mid-1980s, with him eventually chairing its board from 1995 to 1999. In 2001, when Tom took over as CEO, Concern needed to revitalise its brand – which up until that point had been a local company with a global emphasis. Tom’s mission was two-fold, increase the international reputation of the company, increase its on the ground work and expand the company’s funding base to help move Concern into rural villages where help was clearly needed.

“A lot of the work I was doing for the last number of years was out there talking on the international arena about that work and about trying to influence other organisations, or other governments, to adopt the policies of Concern which were very effective,” he told NewsFour.

Within a few years, Concern had increased its reputation on a global scale and developed an intimate approach through its Community Therapeutic Care (CTC) programme, which dealt specifically with childhood malnutrition in individual homes.

Tom also instigated Concern’s 1,000 Days campaign, which gave women and mothers in Ireland a chance to connect with other mothers within developing countries. During that campaign, Concern created local centres for mothers to come and help gain an understanding of adequate childhood birth and proper nutrition.

Tom has left behind an organisation that has increased its funding base from €63 million in 2001 to €160 million as of last year. To date, over 70 countries have signed up to tackle malnutrition in children and have begun to adopt a method whereby food packs can help treat and save over two million starving kids.

“One of the innovations that Concern brought regarding malnutrition in children was actually adopted at international level as best practice in 2007,” said Tom. “That was a really substantial achievement by Concern.”

Tom came from a humble farming background, eventually graduating from UCD with a degree in Agriculture Economics. In 1973, he began his professional career at the European Commission working at the organisation for ten years, three of which he spent in Africa.

For Tom, a part of his heart will always be with those millions of children he has managed to save from starvation or within the hearts and minds of poor people in Somalia or Sierra Leone. “I would certainly say that the work in Concern is one that will last,” said Tom referring to his own legacy.

Photo: Courtesy of Tom Arnold.

By Liam Cahill