Sanctuary Runners came together to run in solidarity at Lee’s Road last Sunday for the very first Refugee Week Fun Run-Midwest. With over 70 attendees of all ages and abilities from across Clare, the midwest, and the world, it was a gathering of warmth, welcomes and respect.
The event, organised by Sanctuary Runners with the collaboration and support of the SICAP program within Clare Local Development Company, Clare Immigrant Support Centre, Clare Sports Partnership, Clare Volunteer Centre and attended by An Garda Siochana, brought people from all corners of the county to run/ walk/ jog as one. All new runners/ walkers/ joggers received one of the iconic Sanctuary Runners blue t-shirts and completed up to 5km through the beautiful surrounds of John O’Sullivan Park.
Following their endeavours, attendees gathered for tea, chats and refreshments, with goodie bags for all the children. Everyone received a Certificate of Participation to mark their part in this special first for the area.
Graham Clifford, founder and CEO of Sanctuary Runners spoke to all attendees in advance of the run: “The reason for Sanctuary Runners is to bring people together, wherever they are from, to run as one, united in our blue t shirts, sharing this experience. It is particularly special to be in Clare to mark this event and enjoy the warmth of the atmosphere created by our volunteers and everyone who has come together here today.”
With the rain staying away on the day, people basked not just in the sunshine at Lee’s Road, but also in the warmth of new connections and friendships, feeling connected to a bigger community, feeling part of a bigger movement and feeling seen and recognised for their worth and contribution.
Sanctuary Runners have recently appointed Jennifer O’Brien as the Regional Development Officer for the Midwest. With a dedicated staff member in the area Sanctuary Runners plan to continue their positive relationships, with supports and services in Clare and across the midwest to further community integration and continue sharing the values of solidarity, friendship and respect.
Sanctuary Runners Ennis meet regularly at the Fairgreen/ Tim Smyth Park. Anyone interested in joining Sanctuary Runners can email email@example.com
Find out more about Sanctuary Runners at https://sanctuaryrunners.ie/
Tus & RSS (Rural Social Scheme) are the types of programs that tend to tip away on their own without much press or hoopla. But the people employed through the Tus & RSS schemes are often the people who do the physical labour in a community that keeps it functional and pleasant to live in. They also support community groups that are completely dependent on volunteers, and help enable those groups to have a bigger impact in their communities.
I embarked on a visit to hear a bit more about the impact that the Tus & RSS schemes have had in one of our local Clare communities, in Corofin.
I sat, talked, and walked with Joe O’Connell, who manages the Tidy Towns community group in Corofin (and has been involved with them since they reformed in 2011). Tidy Towns is supported by the RSS schemes through CLDC. Joe told me about the various projects and ongoing work in the town that people from the Tus/RSS schemes maintain, support, and contribute to. We were joined by Kieran Linehan, who is the Tus/RSS supervisor for the area. “From the very beginning, Kieran has been there,” said Joe, commenting on how the RSS team has been helping out for as long as he can remember.
I asked a lot of questions about how the work has impacted the local community. Both Joe and Kieran have lived in the area for quite some time, and have watched it change. “I’ve seen massive changes to the town over the last ten years; massive, massive,” they both agreed, saying that it’s become a much nicer place to be and to live. A lot of that change is due to the physical outdoor spaces being upgraded, cared for, and looked after. Tidy towns and the RSS have had a huge part to play in that. “People also aren’t dropping rubbish like they used to; once you see a place being looked after, you don’t trash it anymore,” said Joe. “There’s zero tolerance for that now.”
“The ethos of Tidy towns is really all about taking care of the place where you live, making it a better place to live,” he told me, “And this is what the Rural Social Scheme is helping us to do. You can’t do that without the support of organisations like CLDC, and the schemes (Tus&RSS) that are operating in the village. It’s a partnership thing really.”
“They [RSS} are a great benefit to Corofin, and we need them, you know. They’re doing a number of things; they’re not just involved with Tidy Towns, they’re involved with the GAA club, the Community Centre, and a few others. Everything from stone walls, to planted areas, to green spaces, to maintaining paths…numerous projects. There’s been great work done, when you think about what the place looked like before we got going…there’s no comparison…Huge, huge improvements.”
We spoke about how the schemes support the community groups through lifting the weight off of the volunteers, keeping things going and enabling volunteers to work on more initiatives. “Our volunteer base would be small enough, considering the amount of stuff we have to do. It’s really good to have the RSS on board,” said Joe. Kieran added, “It gives the volunteers a chance to carry on with other tasks, you know, outside of worrying about grass cutting and things like that.” We spoke about how a lot of the work being done by workers on the scheme is hard, maybe repetitive, physical labour that many people wouldn’t be up for. Grants for materials to improve the town have also come through the RSS scheme. So when you look around the town, you can see their impact everywhere.
Corofin Tidy Towns has been climbing up the rankings in the national Tidy Towns competition, but Joe made it clear that “it’s not all about the competition at all. It’s about the area you live in, month in and month out.”
As we walked around town, we talked about the meaning of community. Joe said, “Some people have different definitions of community; some people might say it’s the GAA, some people might say it’s the schools, or the music.” When I asked him, “What is YOUR definition of community?” he replied, “Inclusivity, and working together.” Kieran added, “I suppose community is really about the place where you live, and the people that are there, isn’t it?”
As we wrapped up, Joe noted, “I suppose the challenge is, how do we appreciate the members on the [RSS] scheme? Is there a way we could be appreciating them a little bit more?”
My visit concluded with a delicious coffee from the new Morning Dew Cafe, which opened at the end of last year and features locally sourced ingredients, and works to support local artists. (Highly recommend!)
Thanks to Joe and Kieran for showing me around, and thanks to all the Tus & RSS supervisors and workers for everything that you do!
With so many challenges facing our communities, it’s nice to hear a bit of good news every once in a while! Here at Clare Local Development Company, it’s our job to have a positive impact in vulnerable and disadvantaged communities. Recently we’ve been thinking more and more that we should share some of the stories that highlight this positive impact. We think it’s important to let people know that things can, in fact, change for the better, and that there are people and organisations out there who are working really hard to make that happen. It’s not always glamorous (in fact, it usually isn’t,) and it’s almost always small steps that make the difference. But we are proud of what we do, and the ways that we work to empower our local communities.
One way that CLDC empowers and supports people is through capacity-building and employment. This means that we help people to get the information they need, and often learn the skills needed, to get themselves a job. When someone can get themselves a job, their life changes in a big way.
We also work with local employers, agencies and training organisations, and connect them with job-seekers. This means that not only do job-seekers have opportunities, but the businesses in need of help can get the support, training, and new talent they are looking for as well. Through all of these efforts, we end up with more empowered and resourced individuals, more diverse and successful local businesses, and a stronger community network.
This is really important in rural places like West Clare, where people live quite far from each other, economic conditions can be challenging, and there aren’t many hubs for gathering, learning, working, or exchanging resources. A lot of the suffering isn’t visible at all, and it continues generation after generation. So if we can provide opportunities for empowerment, it can have a really positive impact. And as we know in Ireland, word travels fast. So let’s try to spread some good news, shall we?
Last Wednesday, March 1, Clare Local Development Company put on an event that was designed to bring the local community out, and do all that good stuff mentioned above. We called it the West Clare Jobs Fair. The Clare County Council was nice enough to provide us with a wonderful space to host it, at the DigiClare Digital Hub in Kilrush.
“The West Clare Jobs fair was a great success,” said Hilary Gleeson, one of the organisers and a wonderful staff member here at CLDC. “We had nearly 200 attendees and 26 stands with employers, recruitment agencies, virtual stands and agencies such as ourselves (Clare Local Development Company,) Limerick Clare Education and Training Board, Department of Social protection, Employability Clare, Grow Remote and Clare County Council.
Local employers such as Saint Gobain Manufacturing, Kilrush Credit Union, Clare Fire & Rescue, FRS Network, Ireland Home Care, ESB Moneypoint and Trump International Hotel were among the stands, as well as Espresso Bar and Kilrush Aqua Park looking for employees.
Many brought their CVs along to give to employers and chat about the roles available in many types of businesses, from hospitality to engineering and healthcare, with many including training as part of the job.”
“It’s a brilliant event,” said Colette and Liam from the FRS Network. “It’s really great, the people coming through are great. And the Ukrainians have so much to offer us. It’s really good to be here.”
Although there was a strong Ukrainian turnout, along with refugees from other countries, a large percentage of the attendees were local Irish. “It’s great meeting so many people; it’s really good to come down here,” reflected one employer. This was a common sentiment; Aine from the Kilrush Credit Union commented, “It’s great to be out meeting people. It’s brilliant, and it’s great to have this happening in West Clare. It’s important to showcase everyone that’s here, and also everything that’s available.” The crew at Clare Fire and Rescue reported, “A great buzz, really good interactions. Lots of people coming and going, it’s brilliant.” The Espresso Bar crew added, “It was a really good event. From an organisational perspective, really well run, really effective. Really good turn out, really wonderful people coming through.”
Hilary added, “We were very fortunate to have Microsoft attend with Patrick Cusack who showed the vast array of jobs available with his company, and further than that he showed attendees how to set up a CV online with a LinkedIN profile, encouraging jobseekers to link with their networks to find work.” Patrick said he was “very happy with the footfall” at the event. “The biggest challenge is about connecting people to a network,” he said. “So many [of the people in need of work] have so many incredible skill sets; but they are lacking the network to know who to talk to about what kind of job. I’m trying to help people learn how to put their skillset out there.”
We had Killian from Local Link helping people to understand the options for public transport to and from potential work locations. “It’s about people knowing that if they get a job, they’ll be able to get there,” he said. We also had representatives from GrowRemote and CloudAssist sharing information about the logistics, benefits and possibilities of remote working. There were translators and interpreters on site to assist with language barriers. We did everything we could to make sure that people could get the information they needed, and to make opportunities accessible.
Sean MacNamara, a colleague at CLDC, commented, “Nearly 200 jobseekers attended; some will have left and will now go into employment, and more will have left with a sense of hope that employment is accessible. Many have been given a starting point on a roadmap to employment.”
Commenting on the overall impact and success of the event, Sean added, “Social Inclusion and community development is always about trying to connect people and develop positive relationships, and this Jobs Fair succeeded in doing just that.”
We want to thank everyone who showed up to take part, and to commend the courage it takes to put yourself out there!
All in all, it was a fantastic turnout, meeting a lot of community needs, and empowering local residents of West Clare to take the next steps towards employment, capacity-building, connection and empowerment. It was a good day.
Stay tuned for more good news!