Character of Cork: Move from Albania to Cork ‘made me’, says Arife

A wife, a mother, an activist, and an entrepreneur, Arife Daci Hysaj is a character Cork is lucky to have, writes Roisin Burke
Character of Cork: Move from Albania to Cork ‘made me’, says Arife

Arife Hysaj in the gardens at Nano Nagle Place, Cork. Picture: Denis Minihane.

IN her late 20s, married with two young daughters, Arife Daci Hysaj has been living in Cork for the past five years.

Arife and her husband, Paris, and children Xheni (2) and Aylin (4) live in the city centre.

Moving from Tirana, Albania, to Ireland in 2007, made Arife the person she is today.

With a degree in chemistry and food technology, Arife is no stranger to hard work and learning and has been involved in creating, setting up, and managing a number of vital services in Cork.

“I’m a founding member of Saoirse: Ethnic Hands On Deck, a registered social-enterprise project run by migrant women living in direct provision in Cork and in the community,” Arife said. 

“Saoirse: Ethnic Hands on Deck comes after the very successful project of sanctuary mask initiative in the beginning of the pandemic in Ireland, where migrant seamstresses, with the support of charities in Cork, came together and made 9,000 masks, which were distributed for free to all direct provision centres in Cork and other vulnerable communities.” Saoirse sells a range of products created by migrant women, from masks to greeting cards to tote bags.

Arife also helped set up Letsmatchmums, which encourages mothers in the community to connect with mothers in vulnerable positions and donate their children’s pre-loved clothes or toys to them.

Arife is also a certified community mentor and a trained facilitator of intercultural dialogue and parenting and her aim is to support and inform migrants about parenting practices in Ireland.

Arife and Paris Hysaj and their daughters Xheni and Ayla in the gardens at Nano Nagle Place, Cork.Picture: Denis Minihane.
Arife and Paris Hysaj and their daughters Xheni and Ayla in the gardens at Nano Nagle Place, Cork.Picture: Denis Minihane.

“I am a migrant and human-rights activist and a founding member of the women’s group at the Cork Migrant Centre, which aims to provide mental-health support and empowerment to migrant women and mothers.”

Arife described a project that she is working on at the centre.

“From the Cork Migrant Centre, we’ve also developed a new initiative which is only recent, the international garden, where migrant families will bring seeds from their countries and plant them on our international garden, which is at Ardefoyle Convent in Blackrock.

“It’s a passion I’ve grown up loving, when I used to see my mother always growing our vegetables in a little garden at our house. We always had organic vegetables and fruits planted on our own garden.

“We’ll have our launch of the harvesting of the garden in the coming days in September and can’t wait for it.” Arife, a go-getter, enjoys being positive and sharing postivity.

Arife said: “I am a very positive individual and I always try to encourage the other people around me. I am a believer that when you help and support and try to build the others, you’re also building yourself. Positivity and optimism are something I love about my lifestyle. Likewise, I love travelling as much as I can.” One of the key life lessons that Arife likes to share with others is the importance of being kind and having a laugh.

“Life is too short to be stuck in hard passages of life. There’s always tomorrow and tomorrow will be different.”

Another top tip Arife had for others was to be yourself, but never stop improving.

“When there is empowerment of women, there is improvement of society,” Arife said.

The Cork character said her personality has been honed over the years through big events in her life. “I believe everyone is formed from what they’ve lived through. If I hadn’t gone through what I did, I wouldn’t be where I am, and I am proud of myself and of what I’ve become.”

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