Irish companies can play a part in welcoming refugees

Jeanne McDonagh - Open Doors Initiative

Jeanne McDonagh, Open Doors Initiative

I became aware of Community Sponsorship at a seminar I went to where three people spoke about it so passionately and eloquently that I immediately wanted to get involved.

The three people were David Stanton TD, Colm O’Gorman who was Executive Director of Amnesty International Ireland at the time, and John Roycroft, formerly Department of Justice. They talked clearly about the impact community sponsorship can have on people whose lives have been ripped apart by war and conflict.  

The idea of a group or community wrapping themselves around a person and families fleeing war, like a great blanket of comfort, and helping to build a new life for them, is such an image of hope and of Irish welcome. How could you not want to join in?

So when the Open Doors Initiative was asked to take part in community sponsorship, we were fully on board. Playing to our strengths of bringing companies together, we reached out to organisations we thought might be interested, and ‘Cairde – the Allies Network’, was born. It’s a network that brings business, law, sport, and other organisations together, to create an umbrella of support for community sponsorship groups and to offer additional aids where needed.

The companies in Cairde support in a myriad of ways, based on their area of expertise or outreach. It can be funding, employee time, practical needs such as computers or phones, or even creating a sponsorship group themselves. All help is gratefully received and makes a real difference.

We need to see a whole of society approach to helping those who come to Ireland to rebuild their lives, and who want to become part of the fabric of our country. They are our new neighbours and friends. Community Sponsorship is a way to do this – it is a wildly successful integration model which was first pioneered in Canada, and everyone can be part of it. It’s a beautiful process and really gives back to everyone involved.

Irish society is changing, and for the better. Welcoming people from other countries can bring diversity of thought, lateral thinking, and creativity. It cuts across country boundaries and sameness of approach and mirroring, to lead to a blended and diverse society which is enriched by difference. It helps everyone in this way and has a positive and inspiring impact on our lives.

I would say to companies and organisations – get involved, help out and make new friends. You will be so grateful you did.

To find out more about the Cairde Network visit theopencommunity.ie/cairde-network.

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