How can countries help refugees integrate? The question looms large in Europe, which is experiencing a refugee crisis many are calling the biggest since World War II. In Ireland one organisation believes communication could be the answer.
While governments struggle to cope with the increased demand on resources, small independent organisations are stepping in to help refugees integrate in their host communities.
An unusual pioneer in inclusion has been the independent, non-governmental volunteer centre Third Age, based in Ireland. Third Age began in the 1980s as an innovative community hub for the elderly, offering voluntary services, such as a listening helpline, and social activities all built around celebrating the “third age of life.”
“We know that it’s having an impact – for parents, it means being able to help their children with homework. For others, it’s helping make them more employable in Ireland.”
Calling itself Fáilte Isteach (which translates to “welcome in” in Gaelic), the English teaching program spread by word-of-mouth and within a year was rolled out to new communities.
“Over 2,000 migrants attend classes in the various national centres every week.”
For now, Third Age and its programs remain based in Ireland, but international expansion is not off the table. Earlier in 2015, Nally spoke at the Innovate to Restart conference in Italy and met with several social cooperatives, including Milan-based Piccolo Principe, which expressed interest in piloting a program based on the Fáilte Isteach model. Asked whether she could imagine that Third Age and Fáilte Isteach could expand abroad in the near future, Nally is optimistic: “We would love to share what we have learnt,” she says.