Supporting Cork’s migrant mums

Cork Migrant Centre are running a parenting programme to support women who are living in Direct Provision. COLETTE SHERIDAN finds out more.
Supporting Cork’s migrant mums

CELEBRATING: Participants in a parenting programme for immigrant mothers celebrating at their certificate award ceremony hosted by Cork Migrant Centre in City Hall. Picture: Clare Keogh

LANGUAGE barriers, bureaucracy and isolation are just some of the issues facing migrant mothers living in Direct Provision centres in Cork city and county.

But thanks to the work of the Cork Migrant Centre (CMC) at Nano Nagle Place, programmes and activities aim to make life easier for non-native mums.

Before Christmas, a parenting programme for immigrant mothers was officially launched and a certificate award ceremony hosted by CMC took place at City Hall.

Co-ordinator at the CMC, Dr Naomi Masheti, a psychologist, and Dr Colletta Daliki, a social worker, thanked the women who co-designed the parenting programme. They said: “This programme is a wonderful example of the benefits of grassroots-based collaborative work. In designing the parenting programme, our main task was to facilitate discussion on various topics relating to parenting in a culturally different environment.

“These women living in direct provision with very limited resources and numerous challenges to their parenting are simply amazing. They attended the parenting classes for ten weeks...We have had the privilege of watching their confidence grow each day.”

The CMC was established by the Presentation Sisters in 2006 to provide free and confidential information on access to services and immigration issues. It is run by Sr Josephine McCarthy.

The centre, in conjunction with Dundalk Institute of Technology and parents living in direct provision centres in Cork, has developed a culturally sensitive parenting programme aimed at supporting migrant parents, modelled on a programme initiated in Australia.

Dr Naomi Masheti, originally from Kenya, has been living in Cork since 2001. Before joining the CMC, she attended UCC where she completed a doctorate and was a guest lecturer at the university.

“As a direct result of my Ph.D, I did a cultural competence practice training course. Most psychology is conceptualised from a western understanding of the psychology of wellbeing. I was looking at areas of cross cultural psychology.”

Ireland, says Naomi, is culturally very diverse. She wanted to know how that impacts the way services are accessed and how the service providers cater for people from different cultural backgrounds.

REACHING OUT: Co-ordinator at the Cork Migrant Centre, Dr Naomi Masheti, a psychologist.
REACHING OUT: Co-ordinator at the Cork Migrant Centre, Dr Naomi Masheti, a psychologist.

Her work revealed that in the 1970s and 1980s, when technology was not so advanced, migrants “assimilated more into the societies they lived in. But now, because we’re living in a global world with technology that is so advanced, migrants are really transnational. I can read the news in Kenya here in Cork. My day-to-day life can be embedded in Kenya and I can talk to my people there every day on Whats App. So the psychology of migrants today is very much influenced by trans-nationalism. Because of that, they are not assimilating. They’re embedded in different cultures and can pick and choose.”

Naomi takes all this into account when working with migrants.

“I’m looking at the day-to-day problems that cause them stress. I’m doing this in a preventative way before it becomes pathological.”

Not knowing the language is obviously a huge source of stress for migrants who arrive in Cork, as well as officialdom. The CMC helps out with language and how to access services.

“Mothers with small babies are very vulnerable because there’s no free creches for them so they’re left with the babies in the hostels with nothing to do. We have set up mother and baby groups and groups for older children. What they want is art, music and football and dancing. So we have art projects for older children as well as hip hop dancing facilitated by DJ, Stevie G.”

Naomi says that when mothers with babies first started coming into CMC, they seemed very down.

“So I decided to do workshops on mental health and ways of coping with stress,” she said.

Also, the mothers are given their own space at Nano Nagle Place, with the babies taken to a different room where they’re exposed to music.

While researching her doctorate, Naomi came across the programme in Australia, developed for migrant parents there.

“I thought it would really work here so I put in a proposal to Tusla to adapt this Australian programme for an Irish setting. We got funding of €20,000. It allows us to adapt the programme and to deliver a programme to the mothers at the CMC in ten weeks.”

Local businesses have come on board to contribute to the wellbeing of Cork’s migrant families. Crowley’s Opticians carry out free eye tests for migrants living in direct provision. Lockdown Events, which runs a modelling agency, does hairstyling and make-up for young migrants, to help them with self-esteem.

Racism is a topic that is addressed by the CMC.

“It’s a difficult subject that is easier to address through the arts. At CMC, we do visual arts and performing arts through a programmed called Wellbeing and Integration through Culture and Arts,” explained Naomi.

It sounds like the CMC has every angle covered when it comes to helping migrants to integrate.

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