Locals in Waterford aim to make Syrians feel at home in Ireland

Locals in Waterford are setting up a programme of events to help Syrian families feel part of Irish society. 

Refugees from Syria and Iraq cross the Greek-Macedonian border last year. Picture: Getty Images

The Déise Refugee Response Group held a public meeting where people suggested ways that Syrian families, who have been relocated here due to war, can feel a “sense of inclusiveness”.

“These families’ efforts to overcome the many obstacles and hurdles put in their way (through no fault of their own) deserves, at the very least, our compassion, patience and kindness but most of all action to help,” read a statement by the group.

The group was set up by locals in Waterford in response to seeing the image of three-year-old Alan Kurdi’s body washed up on a Turkish beach in September 2015.

Since then, the group has been working to help Syrian people who have been relocated here, in particular helping refugees who arrive at the reception and orientation centre, formerly the Clonea Strand Hotel outside Dungarvan. This was set up under the Irish Refugee Resettlement Programme.

The work over the last year and a half has led to Syrian refugees, formerly resident at a west Waterford reception and orientation centre, raising funds for their compatriots following in their footsteps.

Some actions that have taken place include group meals. Some Syrians who were formerly resident at the centre recently cooked a “giant meal from Arab and Syrian recipes” in order to raise funds.

The Waterford group collects food, toys and supplies for Syrian families in need of help. Dolls, clothes and cots for dolls, as well as colouring pencils are collected for the young child refugees also.

Ballinroad Soccer Club has also invited all of the families in the Clonea centre to use their facilities and soccer boots are also now being collected for the children.

After the meeting last Friday a statement was released on behalf of the Déise Refugee Response Group: “To all the families at Clonea past, present and future. Thank you for welcoming us into your lives and connecting with us with your open hearts and minds and teaching us that. All any of us ever have is the present moment. We are one.”

Housam Ziad, who lives in Ireland, spoke about his experiences of what life was like before the war in Syria and having to leave under extremely difficult conditions in the midst of hostilities, leaving behind family members and friends.

The purpose of the meeting was to come up with events that would give the Syrians in Waterford a “sense of belonging again.”

Ireland has pledged to take 4,000 refugees from various areas of conflict by the end of 2017. Waterford hosted 90 refugees in 2015; and a further 40 in 2016.

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