‘Many people migrate to Ireland to build a new life. Some succeed, some struggle, some fail’

New to the Parish: Supriya Singh arrived from India, via the UK, in 2016

Supriya Singh moved to Ireland with her family in 2016. ‘Five years ago I felt very connected to the UK but now I’m more connected to Ireland,’ she says. Photograph: Alan Betson

Supriya Singh moved to Ireland with her family in 2016. ‘Five years ago I felt very connected to the UK but now I’m more connected to Ireland,’ she says. Photograph: Alan Betson

 

Supriya Singh had only been in Dublin two months when she set up a Facebook page to link up with other Indian women in Ireland. Having left her career behind in London, the Indian journalist was keen to meet other like-minded women in her new home. However, while she liked the family’s new home in the Dublin suburb of Raheny, she found it quiet and lonely.

“My husband was offered a better job in Dublin and it was a mutual decision to come here. Raheny was a beautiful place and initially it felt like a bit of a holiday. But it was winter and getting dark so early and I didn’t see any other Indians anywhere. It was tough.”

Singh began applying for jobs in journalism as soon as she arrived in the country. However, the confusion around her Stamp 3 spousal visa – which entitled her to apply for jobs but would require a stamp change if offered a position – meant no one was interested in her applications.

“In those early times I often asked myself, what am I doing here? I continued writing for websites and magazines in India but I wasn’t getting bylines. And I didn’t feel the connection I’d had in the UK. I missed that a lot.”

Some of the women had been here 16 years but never had the chance to get to know each other. They all agreed it felt so good to know people from your own place

Born and brought up in New Delhi, Singh developed a love of writing from an early age. While most of her friends and family pursued careers as doctors or engineers, she chose to study English at university and then did a postgraduate in journalism. “I started working as a producer in television in 2008 and I really enjoyed it. When you love what you’re doing, it’s never stressful.”

In 2012, Singh moved to London to join her husband, who was working in IT, and found work with the BBC and a number of US news agencies.

“I liked everything about London; my office was close to Oxford Street and it was such a new experience for me. It was my first time living outside India and I got to learn about a totally new culture. As I met people I realised there was also a real connection between India and the UK.”

When she moved to Dublin with her husband and daughter after nearly five years in London, Singh had to start from scratch and rebuild connections. “I had lovely neighbours and interacted with them but I needed those connections. I was missing family and I was finding it hard to settle. I wanted to interact with people, I wanted to work.”

This homesickness prompted Singh to seek out other women from India through Facebook and within two weeks her new “Indian Ladies in Ireland” page had attracted 500 members. Soon after, she held a get-together for about 50 members and in August 2017, the group gathered on Grafton Street for a flashmob to celebrate India’s independence day.

“It felt so good bringing all those women together to dance to Bollywood music in Dublin. That event brought even more women to join the group where we could help each other.”

The women began volunteering in the local community and provided career guidance, job support, visa information and personal links to recent arrivals from India. “Some of the women had been here 16 years but never had the chance to get to know each other. They all agreed it felt so good to know people from your own place. It helped us become more connected to Ireland and make it a home away from home.”

After her son was born in 2018 and once he was a year old, Singh decided the time had come to refocus on her career and completed a course in human resources at the National College of Ireland. “It was tough balancing education with family and it wouldn’t have been possible without my husband. He was looking after the kids and feeding them when I went to college.

There are many people who migrate to Ireland with the hope of building a new life for them. Some succeed, some struggle, some fail. But with a little help in the right direction, it can change many lives

“This isn’t just about me, it’s every woman who comes over here from a different country and has to figure out how to balance her family and her career.”

Singh now works in a bank and enjoys her job but says her volunteer work brings her real happiness and contentment. “My job has become something else, it’s money for living. The ultimate motive of life is to seek happiness in what you’re doing, to have peace in your mind. And I feel that I get that from working for the community.

“My mother runs an NGO in India and I have grown up watching her help those who are less fortunate. God has given us this life and the only way we can make it meaningful is by helping people in whatever ways we can.”

Singh’s Facebook group now has more than 3,000 members and the women continue to volunteer in different parts of the country. She also presents a news radio show on Dublin South FM.

“I feel happy that my kids are being raised here in Ireland, as I believe India and Ireland share the same cultural and family values. Till the end of life we are connected with our family members, we take care of them in whatever ways we can. Family is like branches of tree: we all grow in different directions yet our roots remain as one.”

While her life in Ireland hasn’t turned out how she might have expected when she first arrived, Singh believes this country has “helped me to realise my true calling”.

“There are many people who migrate to Ireland with the hope of building a new life for them. Some succeed, some struggle, some fail. But with a little help in the right direction, it can change many lives. And I feel fortunate to be a medium of help through my Facebook page for ladies moving here in Ireland. Five years ago I felt very connected to the UK, but now I’m more connected to Ireland.

“Life is very unpredictable, it takes you where you’re meant to be. And perhaps this was my destiny.”

We would like to hear from people who have moved to Ireland in the past 10 years. To get involved, email newtotheparish@irishtimes.com. @newtotheparish