Open letter to the ministry of rural and community development, justice, children, integration, public expenditure.
By Roos Demol, Social Entrepreneur.
I am addressing you to highlight my own and undoubtedly many other’s circumstances and the poverty we live in, not because we don’t work or need reskilling, but because we work too hard, make you look good and get pittance in return.
I am Roos Demol, a Flemish woman living in Ireland since 1998. I have brought up 4 children here and got divorced in 2019, 7 years after my separation.
I was a director in my husband’s company, until our separation, what happened after that is too long to write about, but I will happily supply all data.
What I want to talk about is my social entrepreneurship. I am the co-founder of a CLG, International Community Dynamics. I have been helping refugees and International Protection Applicants for many years, but when I could not find any work (ageism does exist), I decided to do something that would convert my voluntary work into a social enterprise. Having seen the needs of people in direct provision, I decided to set up Recruit Refugees Ireland as the trading part of the CLG. That was in 2020.
We have made an impact on the employment world of refugees and IPAs, I now work as the CEO with 9 volunteers, we have 400 candidates registered.
I am known on the Twitter world and in the NGO world as the one with expertise in refugee and IPA employment. I have given webinars for IBEC and will shortly speak on an IHREC conference on this subject.
We are doing well, you’d say. But here is the catch. I was not entitled to an entrepreneur’s allowance, did not get supported by LEO, and did not get seed funds, until recently we received the 9000€ grant of Rethink Ireland.
To make ends meet, I have made myself a TUS worker and now receive 22€ /week more than someone on job seekers (225€). This is a so-called half-time commitment, but we all know that it is impossible to set up a social enterprise working half-time.
The work of Recruit Refugees Ireland is very valuable, and I get many thank you notes from our candidates and many calls from employers who want to help refugees. We have supplied over 200 laptops to people in Direct Provision, have placed people in decent work, and have helped people with CV development and courses. We provide workshops in various languages.
I have had to ask for rent allowance once my ex died. I have moved to a West Cork village because I can’t afford the rent anywhere else. I am living with my daughter, she is on a disability allowance, which we use to pay for electricity and food. 20€ is a big amount of money for me.
My question is now, don’t you think that it is time to support people like myself, the social entrepreneurs of this country, the ones who establish the social enterprises you so like to celebrate. Are we martyrs, or are we valuable entrepreneurs who provide services that are badly needed, but of which the state had no idea they were needed or how to implement them.
How long must I go on living in poverty, having to choose between warming up the house or eating a decent meal? I work at least 60 hours a week, because I am passionate about what I do, but slowly I can feel a burnout coming.
I am convinced that social entrepreneurs like me and all the other passionate and unmissable entrepreneurs deserve to be paid a fair salary by the state, for developing extremely valuable enterprises.
It is not just the enterprise that needs support. The entrepreneurs do as well, from the very beginning of a wonderful idea.
Ireland is a great country with many wonderful people having wonderful ideas. You would stand out as a truly socially conscious country if you would just support them, not just let them develop the enterprises first under extreme hardship and then go boasting about their results.
I am at the end of my tethers.
CEO, International Community Dynamics CLG
t.a. Recruit Refugees Ireland.