Eglinton 'Direct Provision Centre' Galway- A Place of Hope & Friendship.

I would recommend everyone to read in full the very informative article by Stephen Corrigan in the Galway City Tribune newspaper that finally and publicly tells the truth about the Eglinton #DirectProvision Centre in Salthill Galway. It will be an eye-opener to those that have never been inside its doors and those who are afraid of such centres being built in their towns and neighbourhoods.
For far too long there have been rumours and false stories being spread about the Eglinton such as that a nightly curfew is imposed on residents, that there are no facilities, that no proper selection of foods is served, that staff and management are indifferent even hostile to residents etc. 
But these myths, based on the portrayal of the place being some sort of ‘inhumane’ prison camp, are an insult to both the people who work there and to those who live there.. As someone who has volunteered there almost on a weekly basis since 2004, I know most residents of the Eglinton over the years have recognised it as a place of sanctuary, of friendship and of community. So many of them tell me over and over again that Ireland provides a haven of peace far from the place of violence, racism, sectarianism, hatred, oppression, gang warfare, poverty or exploitation that their homelands have become; and that the Eglinton serves as a wonderful place of transition towards a better life for them and their families.
There is no doubt that this premises is indeed an old hotel that could do with a considerable injection of funding for a major overall renovation; that its owners (who I have never met in my 15 years there as a volunteer) make a nice profit from government grants; that personal living quarters are small with often up to three single people sharing rooms; and that the asylum-seeking process drags on for far too long leaving its applicants in a state of limbo. 
But the facility has a wide range of onsite facilities including a fine canteen, a state of the art pre-school, a community organic garden, a coffee bar, a function room for events such as Christmas (Santa's grotto for the kids) and birthday parties, an outdoor play area, and a computer room. Volunteers and residents will next weekend work together on completing a library. There is also a homework club for children, regular offsite activities for young and old, medical support and a weekly meeting every Friday evening where staff, residents, volunteers and support agencies get together to discuss issues, educational and recreational programmes as well as problems impacting on the lives of the Eglinton community. People from outside call every day to drop off gifts and meet residents. Whilst so many current occupants of the Eglinton are well known across Galway as volunteers in a range of city NGOs, from sporting to religious to environmental. 
One of the key strengths of the Eglinton is the high level of respect and friendship that exists between management (led by Patrick Mcgovern), staff and residents. It feels at times as if they are one very big family. A good example of the high esteem that staff are held in is that former residents regularly call in for a social chat with front line staff such as Carole Raftery.
The opening of such centres can actually benefit neighbourhoods. But of course local communities need to be consulted well in advance and local residents need to be brought to existing centres to see at first hand what they are like and how their occupants view them.
I wish all my friends at the Eglinton peace, friendship and prosperity for 2020

No comments: