Defend diversity | Anglo Celtic

Yordanka Ni Chionnaith, Zeinab El Mustafa and Maryam Ololobou are new cultural champions.

Cultural champions celebrate recent graduation ceremony

More than a dozen immigrants, many of whom have made Cavan their home, will begin to use their unique and diverse backgrounds to better advocate for the new communities arriving in the county.

Certificates were presented to these newly qualified ‘cultural champions’ at a ceremony held at the Kilmore Hotel earlier this month, where Cathal Grant, Senior Director of Tusla’s Prevention, Partnership and Family Support in Cavan- Monaghan, praised their efforts.

According to the 2016 census, there were 535,475 non-Irish nationals of over 200 different nationalities living in Ireland, with almost 12% of the over 76,000 people living in Cavan being of foreign origin.

The Cultural Champions program, which is already well established in neighboring Monaghan County, came about when organizations such as Túsla identified the need for a better family support intervention for immigrants.

“The Cultural Champions program is a great example of collaboration and innovation between the statutory, community and voluntary sectors to improve outcomes for children and families in Cavan,” said Mr. Grant.

The program in Cavan was supported by the County of Cavan Local Development (CCLD), with training in advocacy, parenting and child protection provided by Cavan-Monaghan ETB. It is also supported by Cavan Cross Cultural Community (4C), an association that exists to promote interest in multicultural development, with each cultural champion being invited to establish support groups within their respective ethnic communities.

Terry Hyland, CEO of CCLD, which provides rural, social and economic programs in Cavan, believes the benefit of establishing a key support network for often marginalized communities will continue into the future. “Take for example the past almost two years, when COVID has been a challenge for all of us, but especially for those who are vulnerable or those who have just arrived in the country will receive little or no support. “

He says providing supports is one thing, but being able to direct those who, in some cases, are “scared and afraid and living in fear” to those supports is quite different.

“The program seeks to build on and develop the expertise and capacity of people who have these skills, to work within their own communities, and thus create a bridge to better help them access statutory services,” to integrate further and activate the services themselves. to better understand what’s going on in that person’s life as well, ”says Hyland.

For Siobhán McKenna, Head of Tearmann’s Domestic Violence Department, the improved opportunities to encourage engagement are real.

Cultural Champions have helped people bring formal complaints in a number of cases to the courts.

Ms. McKenna says that over the past 12 months, the Tearmann service has worked with 30 different nationalities. “It’s here that [cultural champions] will become really more important for us in the future, around the language, around the cultural difference, to make that connection, so that they can defend us the needs of the individual person, and we can work through them when there It is about building positively in supports around this person, in terms of housing, schools, children and health care.

Vanda Brady from Mullahoran has championed the Filipino community in Ireland. In 2019, she received a Cathaoirleach’s Award for Social Inclusion for her outstanding efforts and service as a volunteer or volunteer to help others. A founding member of 4C, Vanda jumped at the opportunity to become a cultural champion, telling the Celts: “It’s about building trust with families and improving outcomes for them. It is about empowering us as cultural champions, also giving us the skills to share with others in our communities.

Maryam Ololobou is from Nigeria. She is also involved with 4C. It recognizes, when it comes to certain African communities, that there are often cultures within cultures. This can pose a headache for services that do not experience such diversity. “This is why it is so important to close this gap. A lot of immigrants don’t speak English, so that makes things immediately difficult.

Originally from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Tutu Kalumbi is now president of cultural champions in Cavan. He resettled Cavan in the group of Congolese refugees who arrived in Ireland in 2014. Upon arrival, Tutu said he was “afraid” to even greet people passing by. He adds that the supports offered to the Congolese community at the time were important in promoting its integration.

“I lived in Tanzania for 20 years as a refugee before coming to Ireland. It was like starting a new life when we arrived in Ireland. I had people to help me, and now I would like to help others.

CMETB CEO John Kearney is proud of what recent graduates have accomplished. The program was broadcast online due to Covid, but he is hopeful that the Cultural Champions initiative will expand further in the future.

“It is our responsibility as an education and training provider, to create opportunities for everyone in our community. Our job is to deliver programs to communities, and obviously there are barriers there, but we are working with our partners, like CCLD and 4C, to remove them. At its core, the entire Cultural Champions program focuses on opportunity and equality.

“We have a lot to do in two rural counties, but it’s a challenge we’re ready to take on, to build pathways and support our new communities.”

James C. Tibbs