Local Faces: Kattia Siles Tomney

By Aideen O'Flaherty

A CHILDHOOD spent growing up in an idyllic village in Costa Rica with constant appreciation for and involvement in her local community had a lasting impact on Kattia Siles Tomney, who is the voluntary social media manager for Tallaght Community Council (TCC).

Before Kattia moved to Ireland seven years ago, as a 30-year-old embarking on a business English course in the city centre, she was already civic-minded as a result of the influence of her late mother, Luz Solano, who passed away in 2013.

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Every Christmas, Luz brought her daughter to a local home for orphaned children in their home village of Paraíso, to give them Christmas presents.

They also went to give gifts to elderly residents in local nursing homes, as Kattia’s mother wanted to instill in her the importance of giving back.

“My mam was involved in the local residents’ association, the community choir, and she organised collections for the orphans in our area,” Kattia told The Echo.

“We always made donations and we would bring presents to the orphans. When my mam died, I joined a community group for people with stage four cancer, because she died of cancer.

“Today, I’m still involved in a Christmas party that’s held for indigenous Costa Ricans who live in poverty – they live in extreme poverty, there are no social services for them.

“I’m still involved with that to honour my mother. She’s my inspiration.”

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While still living in Paraíso, Kattia got a degree in economics and business and, after working in a senior role for a pharmaceutical company, she studied corporate social responsibility – as she felt it was important for companies to give back to the communities they served.

Kattia hadn’t intended to leave Costa Rica, but when the opportunity for her to study business English in Griffith College arose she jumped at the chance, and arrived in Dublin in October 2013.

“It was really cold and dark,” remembered Kattia. “But I wanted to get the real Irish experience so I stayed in a house with an Irish person, and I also studied Irish culture and society.

“I was living in the Liberties at the time, so I volunteered for the Irish Cancer Society shop and the Little Flower Penny Dinners on Meath Street.”

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It was during this time that Kattia met her future husband Niall Tomney, who is a Tallaght native and had an apartment in Tallaght Village, which Kattia moved into in 2016. Niall and Kattia got married the following year.

Kattia wanted to get involved in her new community, as she had previously experienced the positive impact community involvement had on her and people around her.

“I always say to all my migrant friends to get involved in local charities and residents’ associations,” she said.

“It’s a great way to improve your English, develop more social skills, and share your expertise and knowledge with the place you now call home.

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When I moved to Tallaght I started wondering about how I could get involved in the community.

“I messaged TCC and met Tara De Buitléar and Gerry Stockil from the group, and I told them about the experience I had volunteering for other groups.”

From this point on Kattia became a steadfast member of TCC, and because she also had marketing experience, she was tasked with content creation and social media management for the group.

“I met Jim Lawlor, who is my husband’s uncle, in TCC, and he really was an inspiration to me,” she added.

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“He had such a love for Tallaght, and he was always willing to help the community.

Sadly he passed away this year and is a great loss to Tallaght.”

As a result of the pandemic, TCC’s in-person events, such as Tallafest and Tallaght Person of the Year, had to be shelved for 2020, but this is where Kattia’s work came into its own.

Instead, the events were marked with virtual celebrations, and this month TCC has been posting out certificates of appreciation to recognise the work of people in the community.

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Photos of the recipients holding their certificates are being posted to TCC’s social media pages.

For Kattia, Tallaght has become a home away from home, and she takes great pride in her adopted hometown.

“I consider myself a Tallaght woman now,” she said. “I love being involved in things like Tallaght Litter Mugs, going to Sean Walsh Park and seeing all of the birds, looking at the view from Kiltipper Park, and going to Bohernabreena and Tymon Park.

“Tallaght has so many nice places, and the people are so nice, friendly and helpful.”

While Kattia and Niall typically go to Costa Rica once a year to see her family – they joke that they have two summers a year, when they go in January the temperature is still in the 20s – that looks unlikely for this coming January as a result of the pandemic.

However, Kattia’s enjoyment of her new hometown has never waned. Even though she can’t make the annual trip back to her hometown in Costa Rica this January, she still enjoys being in her new hometown, Tallaght.

“Tallaght is home to me now,” said Kattia. “If you really connect with the place where you live, then that’s your home.”

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