Members of the Donegal Intercultural Platform, in the play garden built by volunteers for the Syrian children at the new centre in Ballaghderreen, County Roscommon.
The Donegal Intercultural Platform led a delegation this week to the new emergency reception and orientation centre in Ballaghderreen, Co, Roscommon, to meet staff and Syrian families and learn about their concerns and needs.
In advance of the arrival of the first Syrian refugees to Donegal, expected in late summer, the platform organised the trip and invited others to come and familiarise themselves with the issues that the families might face when they come to Inishowen.
The group included members of the platform’s Refugee Inclusion Working Group, of the Inishowen Welcomes Network, of the Islam in Letterkenny Group (Masjid), and doctors, community organisers and activists. Travel costs were assisted by Donegal Local Development, and two members of the local development company took part. The delegation included five native Arabic speakers, so communications were good.
Billy Banda, co-chair of the intercultural platform, led the Donegal delegation.
Platform members listened to people’s stories of years without access to schools, life in a series of refugee camps and relief at finally getting to centre in Ireland. However, they do not know where they will be sent, and whether they will be able to find paid employment.
The delegation also brought 50 family packs of foodstuffs, specially chosen for when observing the fasting month of Ramadan, as well as toys and art and crafts materials for the children.
There are almost 200 people in the centre, from babies to grandparents; most are from Syria, but there are a few from Iraq as well. They are being prepared for life in other parts of the county, eventually living in houses and attending local schools, but first they are receiving basic English classes and health screening, and securing their refugee status papers.
The Donegal team learned a great deal from the Syrian people and agreed they were better informed now to help participate in the welcome and resettlement of the families coming to the county. All who visited confirmed that they would play a part in making Donegal a home from home for the new arrivals when they come.
Intercultural platform members have offered to provide basic Arabic classes for Donegal people and English conversation classes for the Syrian people, once they have settled, and to provide cultural awareness and cultural competency training for those who would be working with the families.
To learn more about the work of the platform, or if you would like to help in some way over the coming months, contact Paul Kernan on 086 0841433, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.