St Luke's group reaching out a hand of welcome 

St Luke's group reaching out a hand of welcome 
St Luke's Welcomes committee before taking part in The Echo Mini Marathon last month.

A neighbourhood group is hoping to welcome refugee family from Jordan or Lebanon to St Lukes’s in the coming months which they will be supporting and assisting in integrating into the local community.

St Luke’s Welcomes are taking part in the Community Sponsorship Ireland programme, with the support of NASC, the Migrant and Refugee Rights Centre.

“Our aim is to prepare to welcome and support a resettled refugee household moving to Cork,” Committee member Ailbhe Cunningham said.

Set up in the spring the group is made up of 12 members who are fundraising €10,000 to help the family coming over settle into society.

“We will be supporting refugees arriving in Ireland to find a home, register with schools and doctors and social services and by connecting them with the lovely folk of St. Luke's,” Ailbhe said.

AIlbhe explained the purpose of the project. “It's complementary to existing resettlement schemes. Instead of moving into emergency reception and orientation centres, families move directly into the community upon arrival and have instant community-based supports.

“This includes a financial buffer for things like initial expenses, dental work, counselling, interpreters etc, which is why we're fundraising.” 

Volunteer Jean Lannin explained why she got involved.

“I became keen to help after watching RTÉ's programme 'Taken Down' which highlighted the plight of people seeking sanctuary in Ireland. Just after moving to St Luke's I received a lovely flyer through the door about St Luke's Welcomes. I joined the group and am very excited to be working towards welcoming our family to St Luke's.” So far the committee has raised over half the funds needed to participate in the programme.

“So far we've had nine fundraisers including three yoga events, one wine tasting and we also ran The Echo Mini-Marathon,” Ailbhe said.

Ms Cunnigham said that the fundraisers were very successful. “We have been getting really great community support.” Committee member Fiona Hurley said: “We have been overwhelmed by the response. People have been extremely generous in volunteering their time, venues, skills. It shows the incredible amount of goodwill out there.” Ailbhe said: “For our wine-taster in Myo, we went around asking for spot prizes, expecting a flat no at every turn; instead, we were met with a wellspring of generosity and support.

“I think each time we hold a fundraiser we deliberately manage our expectations; and are consistently bowled over by the enthusiasm, interest and goodwill out there.

“Sometimes people want to know how they can get involved with the group; others want to know more about the programme and how it works; and, time and time again, we hear people say that these events create connections, a sense of community and coming together.

“We’ve actually got to the point where people are approaching us and asking how they can help – which is amazing.” 

Ailbhe said they are still looking for more members to help out and get involved in the programme and everyone is welcome to join.

“We are looking for more members, especially people who can speak Arabic, and/or have time on their hands during the day.

“We are always looking for new ideas, new group members or a once-off donation to our gofund me campaign.

Ailbhe said they are also looking to source a house to rent for a family. The home needs to be available for two years, in the community or not too far away.

“We greatly need assistance on this,” Aibhe said.

Anyone interested in helping out can contact the committee on Facebook or Twitter @stlukeswelcomes or email stlukeswelcomes@gmail.com.

To donate to the cause follow this link: https://www.gofundme.com/f/st-luke039s-community-sponsorship-drive

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