An Irish woman pilots the country’s first sponsorship programme to help welcome refugees into the community in her small town.
It was more than just the drip drip of news that spurred Nola Leonard to take action to help refugees in her home country of Ireland. Through her faith, she was inspired to make a difference in her small town of Dunshaughlin, north of Dublin, by a global call from the Pope.
“It had been on my mind for a long time. The terrible situation of Syrian refugees and all the people in the Mediterranean, you couldn’t bear to hear another news item about it,” she says.
“Then I read about Pope Francis … taking a Syrian family into the Vatican and calling on every parish in the world to take in a refugee family. It was just before the Pope’s visit to Ireland (in 2018) and I thought, that could be a way to help.”
Six months later, her town becomes the country’s first to pilot a programme that gives Irish towns and villages a platform to sponsor refugee families. The government will launch its Community Sponsorship Programme on Wednesday, supported by UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency. The programme aims to settle a minimum of 50 people by September and research in other countries shows the programme helps refugees to integrate successfully.
In traditional refugee resettlement models, the state provides settlement and integration services directly to refugees. Under the new scheme, groups of private citizens become the face of welcome for new arrivals. Sponsors commit to providing financial, emotional and settlement support to help newcomers as they settle into their new communities.
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