By Jessica Farnan, CDETB Separated Children’s Service.
Imagine being in a foreign country: You don’t understand the language, the weather is cold and wet, the people seem friendly but dress strangely, the food is unfamiliar – and you won’t be going home anytime soon.
This is how it is for many of the children and young people the CDETB Separated Children’s Service works with. They come from many different countries, cultures, religions and family backgrounds. One thing they have in common is that they are trying to find their way –literally as well as figuratively – in their new surroundings. For many young people Ireland will become home and they are keen to make friends, go to school and get on in life. The Separated Children’s Service helps and accompanies them on this journey from asylum seeker to citizen, from adolescence to adulthood.
Learning English is just the first step. The Refugee Access Programme (RAP) prepares those young people who have recently arrived for school: they study English, Maths, Life Skills and IT. They stay on the course until they are ready to move on into mainstream secondary school. For some this may be just a few short weeks, for others who have had very little or no formal education this may take up to a year. When they start secondary school many come back to the Service to get help with their studies. Our Homework Club runs twice a week and volunteer ‘Study Buddies’ help the young people with their homework and assignments.
But there is more to integration than learning English: Making friends, socialising, understanding the ‘Irish way of life’ are equally important in order to make Ireland feel like home. The Separated Children’s Service has teamed up with several organisations and schools to support the young people’s integration.
For the last two years our students go over to Belvedere College every Friday for a language exchange programme with Transition Year students. They chat, play games, have fun – and learn from each other: about Ireland, about Afghanistan, about the Congo, etc. Last year our students displayed their dancing talents with traditional dances from the DRC Congo and from Albania!
Another exciting initiative is our project with Scouting Ireland. Three times a year (autumn, spring and summer) we run a four to six week intercultural programme: RAP students and local scouts meet up on Tuesdays afternoons. They solve puzzles, go on intercultural treasure hunts, and cook together. The highlight last year was an overnight camp in Larchhill- including a night hike and very little sleep!
In February we were delighted to team up with Transition Year students in Stanhope Street Secondary School. Over four weeks the young people explored issues of culture and identity. We hope to go back again next year.
If you would like to know more about the Separated Children‘s Service contact the Coordinator Jessica Farnan at email@example.com or at (01) 498 95 13.