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Mayo Intercultural Action – Different Together
06 October 2015 |
Mayo Intercultural Action – Different Together - Building a Sustainable Model of Integration – European Refugee Fund (ERF)
 “I want to acquire the knowledge on how to be involved in community work and community development, to integrate actively into my local community…to gain the confidence to make my voice heard and make a difference...” (Participant)
About Mayo Intercultural Action
Mayo Intercultural Action (MIA) exists to promote interculturalism and the meaningful participation of migrants and their families in all aspects of the community in County Mayo.  MIA is committed to promoting integration, inclusion and better mutual understanding between migrants, local communities and service providers and facilitates an acceptance of and respect for diversity.
MIA’s work is based on a community development ethos and it subscribes to the values of equality, justice, inclusiveness, empowerment and transparency.  The organisation works with asylum seekers, refugees and other migrants. 
About Different Together – Building a Sustainable Model of Integration
In 2010, MIA secured European Refugee Fund funding of €149,394 to deliver Different Together – Building a Sustainable Model of Integration.  The project provided training and support to 21 local community leaders with refugee status.  The aim of the project was to increase their capacity to promote integration and to support their local communities.
The main objectives of Different Together can be summarised as:
• Equipping participants with the skills to engage effectively with local communities.
• Establishing intercultural community groups that would strengthen social cohesion between refugees and the majority population.
• Working with local organisations and services to learn from the project and develop new responses to working with the target group.
The project was delivered in collaboration with project partners who led different activities and/or sat on project committees. The project partners were: Mayo County Council, Mayo County Development  Board, Galway Mayo Institute of Technology, Mayo Rape Crisis Centre, Galway Refugee Support Group, An Garda Siochána, Mayo North East Leader Partnership, South West Mayo Development Company, Mayo County Community Forum, Citizens Information Service and Mayo Children’s Initiative.
The Training Programme
The central element of the project was the development of a tailored training programme.  The foundation of the training course was NUI Maynooth’s accredited programme, Community Work in a Changing Ireland, along with additional modules in conflict resolution, mediation, negotiation skills, media skills, rural and urban planning and intercultural training. 
A ‘pre-development’ programme preceded the training course and participants also received ongoing support from MIA staff throughout the project.  This approach was an effective way of introducing the participants to the project and retaining those most at risk of leaving the course.  
The pre-development programme consisted of personal development support, ‘Capacitar’ training (simple wellness practices that can be used to counter the stresses and emotional upheavals of day to day living), information technology training, group work, book-keeping and committee skills.  The Capacitar  training was delivered in partnership with Mayo Rape Crisis Centre.  It was used as a platform to introduce concepts of positive mental health and to identify those in need of follow up with additional personal support and counselling sessions.
The project matched participants with mentors who supported them to successfully complete their assignments and engage in their courses.  The project also offered English language support, childcare and travel and subsistence where necessary.
Working with Local Agencies to Maximise Impact of the Project
A key component of the project was the inclusion of strategic partners from service providers and local organisations. 
MIA established a ‘Mainstreaming Committee’ and ‘Project Steering Committee’.  Project partners had a role on one or both of the committees from the outset. The Mainstreaming Committee had a number of functions including:
• Examining ways of mainstreaming the project through promoting the learning and good practice arising from the project.
• Examining the policy lessons from the project to ensure better service and support provision for refugees at a regional level.
• Devising an exit strategy for participants and partners of the project, and examining funding streams to mainstream the project.
Staff from statutory agencies were engaged to deliver inputs into the training programme.   This served as an opportunity to create dialogue between training participants and staff from the statutory sector, informing the sector of experiences and issues of the target group. 
Participants also made presentations to local community services.  This provided another platform for engagement and increased local knowledge of barriers to integration. 
Outputs and Outcomes
Different Together provided 21 refugees with community development training. Of the 21 participants, 20 received FETAC Level 8 certification in Community Work in a Changing Ireland.
As a result of the project, participants set up two migrant resource groups and formed a Nigerian Association.  One participant has also joined the  Board of Mayo Rape Crisis Centre.  The students also organised youth activities for direct provision residents in Ballyhaunis. Participants have continued their involvement with Mayo Integration Forum.
The project developed an excellent model of how to provide education and support for new communities at a grassroots level and an overall good practice for intercultural community education.
 “I took part in Different Together because, as a migrant woman, I wanted to have the knowledge and skills to get involved in my local community. The project has equipped me with the necessary tools on how to deal with different problems that affect society to promote social change. Since taking part in the project, I feel empowered and confident ... I have a better understanding of community work ... I am now ready to be involved in my local community and make a change. If possible, I want to go further by doing social studies or community work in third level education. I am so glad I did the course and will recommend it to anyone who is passionate about social change, equality and justice. A big thank you to Pobal for funding the project, Mayo Intercultural Action and NUI Maynooth.” (Participant)