By Jimmy Rhatigan
Pic: Martin Doheny
IT WAS akin to a local League of Nations with an ethos of make love, not war.
A City Hall gathering of men, women and children from countries all over the world highlighted the wonderful rapport that exists between our people and immigrants who now call our city their home, sweet home.
Our new found neighbours and friend who have settled into local communities and were welcomed into cultural, social and parochial Kilkenny sit comfortably under an umbrella called Fáilte Isteach.
The latter is a volunteer-driven group that helps with the integration of immigrants through teaching the English Language.
The immigrants speak a mix of international tongues but the common denominator is a grasp of spoken and then written English, the conduit to the hearts of our people and to better communication.
Mothers, father and extended families piled into City Hall where they received an enthusiastic welcome from Mayor Michael Doyle who gave thumbs up to the immigration programme, welcomed those from far off lands who now wear the black and amber and paid tribute to volunteers who give unselfishly of their time and talents.
Presented with certificates of achievement at an end of term bash were enthusiastic participants who had attended English Classes for two hours every Wednesday in the Fr McGrath Centre, St Joseph’s Road.
A cosmopolitan gathering of students young and young at heart included immigrants from Germany, Spain, Italy, Poland, Lithuania, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Sudan, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Colombia, Brazil, Ivory Coast and Syria.
A stepping stone to education and work
And, as if to balance the books, a dozen tutors include dedicated teachers from Pakistan, South Korea and England, along with a spattering from the rival hurling counties of Tipperary and Kilkenny.
And completing a fantastic group is the hugely appreciated co-ordination team of Theresa Delahunty from Thomastown and her assistant Samuel Morgan from Sudan.
Theresa also runs an advice service at the Fr McGrath Centre where immigrants are helped with paper work as they settle comfortably into their new way of life while still retaining their own cultures.
Theresa was presented with a bouquet of flowers in appreciation of the great work of her office.
Perhaps it was the immigrants’ way of saying thanks for a great term of teaching me auld flower.
Some immigrants will continue their English studies in September thanks to Stephen Murphy and the Fr McGrath Centre while others may join our local workforce which will broaden their horizons and give them a greater insight into the Kilkenny psyche which could be neatly phrased Céad Míle Fáilte Isteach.
Theresa Delahunty reminded that the project had come to the end of another successful year where 85 participants went through the Fáilte Isteach English and Integration Programme.
She said they were delighted with the positive feed-back they had received from students.
“We all know that inability to communicate in the common language is one of the main barriers to participation in the lived life of the community.
“Our Fáilte Isteach Model was established to bridge that gap, by providing the opportunity to learn English and a place to practice, in a safe and supportive environment.
“For us it is heart-warming to hear that our programme made a difference to so many people,” said Theresa.
Some used it as a stepping stone to further education, others to employment.
More found that it built their confidence in the usage of English, thereby leading to a more meaningful engagement with their children’s schools and integration with the community at large.
Fáilte Isteach is the bridge to a journey that would have started into largely unknown territory which became a river of welcomes and camaraderie, a home from home for so many.
The latter would perhaps sum up perfectly the great contribution of all involved in a superb humanitarian project.