Gaisce award calls for young asylum seekers and refugees to get involved

Award can help young people find their voice and challenge discrimination around race

The national Gaisce award has called on young asylum seekers and refugees to sign up to the president’s youth development programme so they can build the confidence to “find their voice and challenge discrimination around race”.

The Gaisce president’s award, which has been in operation since 1985, last year launched the Wavelength integration system to help 18-25 year olds living in direct provision and with refugee status get involved with the programme.

To mark Refugee Week 2020, Gaisce is calling on young people and youth groups to get involved in this new project which seeks to support recently arrived immigrants to Ireland. The goal is to help young people dealing with the stress of the international protection system build their confidence, says Gaisce chief executive Yvonne McKenna.

“Gaisce is designed to help young people become more of themselves and that’s why it’s particularly important at the moment to help young people find their voice and challenge discrimination around race,” said Ms McKenna.


“The purpose is also integration and inclusion and to bring people who are from different environments together and build that community of young people. You don’t tell young people what they should be, you give them the opportunity to explore their own passions.”

Through funding from the Coca-Cola foundation, the Wavelength programme helps young immigrants overcome financial barriers to take part in the national self-development programme, said McKenna. Nearly 60 people have taken part in the scheme since last year with 13 receiving the Gaisce award for their involvement.

“With World Refugee day and the week that’s in it we wanted to get the word out that this opportunity is there. The reality for people living in direct provision is they can become very preoccupied with other things. We want to make sure it’s accessible to everyone.”

Honest Ndlovu signed up for the Gaisce bronze award after hearing about Wavelength through Longford youth service. The 23-year-old from Zimbabwe, who has been in direct provision since 2018, said he was attracted to the programme because he wanted to meet more Irish people.

In order to achieve the bronze award, Mr Ndlovu must undertake activities in community involvement, physical recreation and develop a personal skill. He originally planned to volunteer in Longford town but after lockdown came into effect he started distributing soap, food packages and snacks to other residents at the centre where he lives.

“The coronavirus forced me to be more creative around Gaisce and find another way of helping out. I think it was quite beneficial of me to work with people in direct provision; when you help someone you feel better about yourself. You’re also able to interact with different people from around the world and understand their cultures better.”

Mr Ndlovu set himself the challenge of improving his reading for his personal skill by focusing on books around economics and real estate and is running, cycling and playing basketball for the sports element of the award.

“I think sport is good for the mind and I really enjoy cycling now. That fresh breeze in your face outside direct provision, it’s uplifting. And it’s always nice to go cycling with other people.”

Taking part in Gaisce through Wavelength has helped Mr Ndlovu settle into life in Longford.

“Interacting with others may not seem like a big thing but it’s really helped me. You get to discover other people’s beliefs and opinions. It also gives me a sense of being there for other people and helping when I can. At the end of the day, doing Gaisce is something I feel will bring me closer to people here in Ireland.”

Sorcha Pollak

Sorcha Pollak

Sorcha Pollak is an Irish Times reporter and cohost of the In the News podcast