Sixteen residents from Dublin’s northeast inner city have been selected to lead a new intercultural ambassador programme to promote diversity and integration in the capital.
The scheme, which launches next week, is supported by the North East Inner City taskforce and seeks to "raise leaders in the the community" as well as encouraging dialogue between local communities, said Joy Eniola, intercultural development co-ordinator with Dublin City Council.
“It’s a really community oriented part of the city but migrants are often left behind,” Ms Eniola said.
“The programme was born out of the desire to get the public more involved in intercultural dialogue.”
The group of ambassadors, which includes people from 12 different countries, who speak 21 languages between them, will work together to build stronger connections across the community.
They will also examine the racial injustices faced by many migrants living in Ireland today. "We have three black ambassadors and others are mixed race or come from different backgrounds. Not every ambassador has experienced racism but they all know what it means to be 'othered'."
All Irish-born members of the group have lived abroad and thus have experienced what it means to be “different”, she added.
Ms Eniola said she was heartened by the support from Dublin City Council in building the scheme and hopes it will develop strong engagement among the north inner city’s mixed communities.
Daniel Kamenyezi, who moved to Ireland from the Democratic Republic of Congo in 2019 to join his mother through family reunification, said he hopes to act as a go between for members of the migrant community seeking support and guidance in their new Irish home. One of the programme's youth ambassadors, Mr Kamenyezi (22) is studying for his Leaving Cert.
“I want to connect the cultures in the inner city and across Ireland. When you live in a different country you can have difficulties knowing where to turn for help. Sometimes you need someone to be your brother and show you the way. As an ambassador I want to help others reach their dreams.”
Fabiana Calabrese, who moved to Ireland last year after securing a job in Dublin, has volunteered for various intercultural educational groups since she was in her late teens. Born in Paraguay, she was brought up in the Brazilian border city of Foz do Iguacu where she hid her background from her friends. "In Brazil there is a sense of discrimination towards countries that are less developed and coming from a Paraguayan family, I spent a lot of my childhood feeling ashamed of my culture and traditions."
Ms Calabrese arrived in Ireland just one month before the pandemic was declared and found it difficult to meet people after the country went into lockdown. “I only knew colleagues from work so this programme seemed like an opportunity to get to know people in the local area but also give back from what I’ve learned.
As an ambassador, she hopes to show children from migrant backgrounds how to be proud of their families and “not be ashamed of where they come from”.
“When we face difference sometimes we feel fear and that’s tricky because fear activates fight or flight mode. From what I understand in Dublin these changes have not happened gradually, maybe 10 years ago the city was very different. So it’s necessary to have people who are actively working to bring awareness of diversity and give people the tools to manage changes in their society.”