Laois Integration Network held an open meeting at Portlaoise Library last Tuesday evening after a call for new members.
There was a good turnout of both existing members and those interested in getting involved.
Librarian Suzanne Carroll welcomed everyone to the library, stating later ‘It is very important to us in the library that every member of the community feel welcome here and that is what LIN is about’.
LIN was established in February 2016 as the Syrian resettlement programme highlighted the need for work to break down barriers and misconceptions of different cultures to allow migrants, asylum seekers and refugees feel equal members of our community in Laois.
Joint chairs of the network, Rosey Kunene and Karen McHugh described how some of the Syrians were among those involved in the inception of LIN to be joined by twenty different groups and agencies as well as many individuals both new and local to Laois.
Karen described the host of events and initiatives organised by LIN from being part of the St Patricks Day Parade and celebrations of Christmas and Eid to sports events and an intercultural céilí.
These events were great opportunities to meet people from other cultures, understand them better and to celebrate both Irish culture and the new cultures to be found in Laois.
There was a great discussion at the meeting about what integration could or should look like. It was noted that if we cannot find ways to welcome new members in our community that we will lose the richness of their cultures and the benefits of their talents.
One lady expressed how personally rewarding she had found previous work with migrants in the form of language classes and urged anyone unsure about getting involved to do so.
It became clear by the end of the meeting that even those who could not commit to attend all LIN meetings may still be able to contribute to some of their events or activities.
They can make contact with LIN joint chairs at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org
On Friday 8th November, 11am author Séan ó Tuathaigh will visit Portlaoise Library to discuss his book ‘Outlanders: stories of the displaced’ which features stories of refugees from all over the world. Admission to this event is free but booking is advised.