Tuesday, 22 November 2016

SHEP say make Life in the Direct Provision centres easier -You can make a difference

Hello from SHEP.
We have all been touched by the photos of people being rescued from the Mediterranean Sea or queuing at closed borders seeking a route to a better life, or living in tent cities in Calais and Paris, Turkey and Lebanon. 
 Ireland’s record in relation to support for asylum seekers and migrants is not a very proud one.  Many of those who come to Ireland seeking asylum are living in Direct Provision centres, where they – mostly - cannot cook for themselves and their families, and where they are given a meagre allowance of €19.10 per adult per week.  
They face the challenges of pursuing their applications for refugee status and finding their way in a new society, though English is not their first language, and though they are not permitted to take up paid employment.

Life in the Direct Provision centres can be stressful and tedious and for some, goes on for years. Isolation from the rest of society is difficult and it is very hard for residents to get to know and  make connections with Irish people.

An informal group has come together in Cork , joining in with existing initiatives to offer solidarity and support to people living in Direct Provision.  The SHEP community, which has such a wealth of people of goodwill, and good heart, and skills in communication and connection, could be part of this grassroots response. (Some SHEP tutors facilitated short courses in two Direct Provision centres some years ago – it would be great to offer this possibility again.)

Two groups who are already working with residents in the Direct Provision centres are Walleroo Child and Family Project, and three sisters who were involved with Cois Tine (a church-based support group for asylum seekers and refugees – no longer in existence).  Both of these groups urgently need more volunteers to continue and expand support to the people in DP centres.  It is anticipated that a big number of asylum-seekers – people who have been rescued from the Mediterranean - will arrive in the New Year.  

Here is a list of volunteer possibilities which might interest you. A small or large involvement is welcome – whatever is right for any individual.

 Wallaroo Playschool Child and Family Project volunteers
Funded by the HSE this project works with children and their families living in Direct Provision Centres for Asylum Seekers near Cork City. Ashbourne House Glounthaune currently has 36 children and Kinsale Rd has 34 children living there with their families. Wallaroo runs preschool, afterschool and holiday programmes within each of the centres and supports families in a variety of ways. Below are some of the projects for which we need more volunteers. 

Charity Shop- Twice Is Nice
Situated on the corner of Clontarf St and Andersons Quay across from the bus station Twice Is Niceraises funds to support the work of Wallaroo Child and Family Project  Open Monday to Saturday from 10 until 5.30, it is managed by a paid manager and assistant. We are looking for volunteers who are willing to do front of house, collections, sorting, cleaning and pricing of donations under the guidance of the manager. The range of donations include, clothes, shoes, books, bric a brac and furniture. It is a large, well run space with a friendly staff. Residents from Direct Provision Centres also volunteer in the shop which supports them to contribute, gain experience and relieve the tedium of life in a DP Centre.

Garden Project
With funding received through the HSE to support mental health, the residents built some raised beds and grew vegetables for their own use at Ashbourne House, Glounthaune. It is a small project which has brought pleasure to many residents who participated or enjoyed the crops of spinach etc. At present the beds are empty and need replenishing and preparation for planting in spring. This project needs someone who can oversee and monitor what is going on and encourage residents to participate in all aspects of the gardening. Most of the residents who initially were involved have moved on someone is needed to gather and inform and support newer residents to participate. Anyone getting involved will need to show management of Ashbourne that they are Garda Vetted as they will be on site regularly where the children will be present.

Study Support Kinsale Rd. Accommodation Centre
The study support group was initially set up to help particular children who were struggling with aspects of school work. But then most children wanted to join because it gives them a quiet and supportive space in which to do their homework. As most families live in one room it is hard for the children to do homework with younger children and tv on, visitors to the room etc. There are no other quiet spaces in the centres where younger children can do homework as these are also adult spaces. Parents often struggle with homework because of Irish or the maths system which changes from country to country. Children who do not have English as a first or second language also struggle at first.
Using Paisti Preschool Playroom, 2 people support the small group of school age children to complete their homework on Mondays between 4 and 6 pm. 
It is better if we have a pool of people so that when someone is sick or away that the Study Support can continue. Volunteers will be Garda Vetted through Wallaroo Playschool.
Befriending & Individual Support; Short Courses; English Language support
The three sisters provide a lot of individual support to residents.  They can only do so much and there is a need to have a pool of volunteers who can help people with: 
·         Transport to hospital and other appointments;
·         Finding their way through Irish officialdom;
·         Writing letters;
·         Opportunities to cook for themselves and their families;
·         Opportunities to meet with Irish people;
·         Social events to lift the heart and spirit.
Along with these, there is also an idea to form a choir whose members would be drawn from the Direct Provision centres, and from the broader community – one of the members of the informal group is a choir director.
What to do if you are interested:
If you are interested in getting involved in one of the Walleroo activities, please ring Walleroo 021 4504514 and ask for Joanie Barron, Coordinator.
If you would like to get involved in individual or group support activities, please come to a meeting at Walleroo Playschool, Sunmount, Military Hill on Saturday 26th November at 2.00 p.m. or give your name and contact details to Mary Mangan, SHEP.
If you are a Community Tutor and would like to volunteer to facilitate short courses at either Cork or Glounthaune, or Millstreet, please contact Liam McCarthy in SHEP. liam.mccarthy@socialandhealth.com  
Let us open our hearts and play our part in building solidarity and creating the kind of society we want in Ireland.
Thank you for taking the time to read this. 
Mary Mangan

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