A new adventure has started, the very badly needed recruitment agency has been set up. Here is the story of how it came together.
I have been in and out of direct provision centres for many years now. Since 2014 to be exact. I have always felt that direct provision was not the way to treat people. And once I got the time and the freedom to act, I did it.
It started with my radio programs, The New Rebels and Sounds and Places on Irish Radio International, where I would invite migrants from any background to the studio to talk about their good and not so good experiences of living in Ireland, I would play music from their countries and chat, in the hope that someone would listen and change her mind about migrants.
I soon came in touch with people seeking asylum here, and when in 2014 the residents of the Kinsale Road Accommodation centre started to revolt, I supported them for as much as I could, getting them Jollof Rice cooked by the Nigerian ladies in Bandon, joining them on their March and just chatting.
I made a lot of frienships there and never looked back.
So over the years, I got to know a lot of people, mostly in Cork, but further afield as well. I met Norbert Nkengurutse, an engineer, and commissioner of the Scouts Group in Burundi, with who I started up International Community Dynamcs as a grassroots organisation.
And what I noticed, once the right to work was there, were the serious challenges in finding work for people seeking international protection, but also finding the work they were qualified for.
It hurt me to see the trouble and stress these people went through and also to see that employers just weren’t aware of the right to work rules, also banks were very difficult to approach to open a bank account (although that doesn’t seem to be an issue any more in Cork now) and the pain and stress this caused many people.
I went to one BNI meeting, invited by a friend, to promote our world music day. I had sixty seconds to talk, and during those, I managed to promote the event but also to mention that as employers they should know about the amazing potential that resides in direct provision centres, and that, if they wanted to know more, they could ask me. And to my surprise, two employers came to me asking about the work permit and if I could help to find people.
This got me thinking. If I could find a way of creating a database of candidate of job seeking refugees and asylum seekers, and connect them to a data base of employers looking for staff, it could help.
That was the beginning.
I talked to a few people and was offered help by the West Cork Development Partnership. I did a lot of research, wrote the business plan and connected to a few more players to find out as much as possible about the recruitment world. I came across some very interesting sites of people who have had the same idea as me in other countries. And I decided to go for it.
I wouldn’t have gone through the first few motions, if it wasn’t for Fergal Conlon from WCDP’s help.
But all the thinking is mine. I soon found out that there are very few people who really know the issues residents in DP face. Some of the women have faced terrible hardships and violence, many still have children at home. The mental torture these people face is second to none.
Nobody ever talks about the fathers who have had to flee wars and leave their families behind (I am planning a podcast on that), having to send money home to sustain their wife and children until the day of the family reunification, which they all thought, would happen soon. But it can take years. These men, often from higher positions at work have been stripped of their status here, coming from a family home to a room shared with at least one other person from anywhere in the world, having been the Heads of the Family with important jobs, to asylum seekers that nobody knows and very few care about.
Imagine just that. Then imagine having to send money home. Having often been exploited before the right to work, and needing to build the confidence again to find a meaning ful job.
Such a thing is not done in one day, or one week, or a month. It needs time and dedication. Support from a dedicated service with knowledge of the recruitment world, but also of the challenges many candidates face. And these people are very rare.
I met Catherine Griffin. A wonderful lady who has worked in recruitment and is very active in helping organisations that help refugees and asylum seekers, such as MASI and Every Child Is Your Child. We immediately struck a chord, and Catherine has become our amazing operations manager.
Mamy Nzema then contacted me, she was so happy to see my plans for a refugee recruitment agency and was eager to join and help. Mamy studied Business administration in Congo and pharamaceuticals here in ireland. She is now our Executive Recruitment Manager.
Recruit Refugees Ireland is set up as another project from International Community Dynamics CLG, which also set up Citadel, the world music band of residents of DP centres and KRAC-11, the cricket club for residents, among other smaller projects throughout the year. We decided to make RRI the trading part of ICD.
The Board of Directors are: (from left to right. top to bottom)
Derek Dunne, business manager and owner, Albert Hakizimana, accountant, Amanda Landzaad, Student, Pierrot Ngadi, Instructor, Job Coach and Peace Ambassador, Maria Minguella, Inclusion Analyst and musician, Victoria Hincu, Business owner.
So the official name is International Community Dynamics CLG trading as Recruit Refugees Ireland.
RRI will be a social enterprise, any surplus made will be invested in ICD, in trainig and workshops.
We currently have over 200 candidates signed up, the number rising every day. The plan was to start in Cork, but we already have people from all over Ireland signing up to find work. We have partnered with some other NGOs and trainig institutions, and we are now ready to advocate with employers. And we have been approached by some very major players already.
We applied for a grant of the National Integration Fund, but, probably too soon, we didn’t get it this time.
It is a bit of a bummer, but we’ll carry on. Unsalaried as we are, it can cause a bit of trouble financially, but that is a whole other blog post.
Here we are. Recruit Refugees Ireland, ready to help International Applicants and refugees (and migrants) to get job-ready and to find the work they want. We work to get the right training, the right support organised and then we advertise the candidates, not the jobs.
Please check our website www.recruitrefugeesireland.com.
Many of our candidates need extra training, Since the lockdown, every college course has gone online. We discovered a big gap, where many of the residents of DP centres do not have a laptop. Instead of doing the small ask on Twitter, I decided to organise a meeting with the alliance of the willing, other organisations interested in running a laptop drive nationally.
We have so far nearly raised around 10,000€, we have bought 20 laptops and received another twenty as donations, we have received over 600 applications for laptops. And we will do our very best to provide everyone who needs it with access to education. The campaign is called Windows for Opportunity. You can support us at this link.
So here we go. The new beginnings of what will hopefully not only change the lives of people seeking protection in Ireland but will also create more awareness and change perceptions. If you want to improve the CSR of your company, why not contact us.