A former soldier from Bradford who survived a three-month kidnap ordeal in Africa has been spending the festive period helping refugees there.
Patrick Noonan, who celebrates his 49th birthday tomorrow, flew out to Kenya to start a new assignment in his role as a humanitarian worker, just months after he was freed by Sudanese rebel fighters.
Mr Noonan, who was brought up on the Buttershaw estate, was kept naked and in chains and fed oranges and camel milk during part of his captivity in the Sudan.
He was freed after 86 days of being held in isolation and under guard in tiny ramshackle shelters at different locations.
Last month he went to Kenya and has been posted to what is described as the world’s largest refugee camp at Dadaab, in the north-east of the country.
Speaking from there, he said: “I am spending this Christmas in Dadaab, ready to provide support and assistance, with my colleagues, for the half a million refugees within the camps located around Dadaab.”
Mr Noonan has been loading aid onto vehicles for the camp dwellers during the period.
Mr Noonan, a father-of-two and grandfather, was a soldier for 23 years with the Prince of Wales Regiment, seeing operational duties in Northern Ireland, Bosnia and Sierra Leone, before joining the World Food Programme.
He said his return to Africa last month had reminded him of his days in the Army.
He said: “On the night of my arrival, an explosion occurred on a bus in a suburb of Nairobi, killing seven people with many more injured, and bringing back memories of my tours of Northern Ireland.
“The current security situation is calm but unpredictable, with improvised explosive devices, carjackings and kidnappings a constant threat. I ensure that whenever I leave the compound I have an armed police escort with me at all times.”
Mr Noonan is working with mostly Kenyan colleagues, as well as people from Italy, Sierra Leone and Nepal. He said many of the Kenyans followed Premier League football and were devoted Arsenal fans.
He said: “They laughed and mocked me before the league cup match between Bradford City and Arsenal. But I wore my claret and amber jersey with pride and when City won they thought I was a crazy, deranged man as I danced around!”