Press Release 14 December 2022.
A New Beginning for relationships in Northern Ireland: Building Pathways to a Shared Future with a new generation of confident minoritized leaders.
A vital new project was launched today by North West Migrants Forum that will help forge new relationships between majority and minoritised communities, and equip a new generation with leadership skills so that both newcomers and their communities can thrive.
The 2021 census indicates that 2% of the population of Derry now come from Black and Minoritised Backgrounds. Around 500 International students and 100 people seeking safety are also now living in Derry.
Director of Programmes Lilian Seenoi-Barr, highlighted the importance of this project and of the NWMF forum itself, ‘This is a very exciting time for us. We are extremely grateful for the continuous support we are receiving from the National Lottery Community fund to provide vital services to the members of our community here. It’s a great boost for the organisation, for members, service users and the wider community.
The last few years, we have seen a growing number of international students and people seeking safety coming to Derry. Whether you are a student, or a person fleeing persecution or someone coming for work, choosing to leave home is not an easy decision and especially if you are moving to a new environment with completely different cultures or a different language and a very complex system where you need to register to access essential day today services.
If you are a person with no recourse to public funds or with limited rights, this can be even more difficult. But knowing that you have someone who understands you or somewhere you can rely on to steer you in the right direction, can make all the difference between having a sense of belonging and feelings of exclusion’.
Kate Beggs, Northern Ireland Director of The National Lottery Community Fund said: “We are delighted to support this project through a £500,000 National Lottery grant over five years, which will make a significant difference to the lives of international students, migrant workers, refugees and asylum seekers living in the North West.
We look forward to seeing the impact that North West Migrant’s Forum will achieve through this grant. Well done to everyone involved.”
Funded by the National Lottery Community Fund, the five-year project is built around three key areas of activities: firstly, Information and Orientation Support for New Arrivals including language lessons, social connection activities and practical support. Secondly, mental health and wellness programmes helping with the challenges specific to newcomers around loneliness, trauma and racism. Thirdly, racial literacy, intercultural dialogue and anti-Racism education.
Launching the project, Derry based activist and nurse Beverly Simpson outlined some of the exciting new activities beginning immediately. Not only will NWMF open a unique Social Connection Café that would meet weekly to offer support, there will also be outdoor activities and arts-based creative therapies. The project would also provide for an annual residential to help break down social and cultural barriers and to educate about racial equality.
Also speaking at the launch, new NWMF Board Member Mr. Idris Mahmud Mohammed shared his own experiences of coming to Derry/Londonderry as a person seeking protection. With a high level of education, in Ethiopia Idris was a teacher at Addis Ababa University and managed their ICT Department. Too often, such skills and experience are disregarded when people arrive in Northern Ireland. Idris highlighted the fundamental role that support from committed and knowledgeable organisations like NWMF play in enabling people to settle and thrive.
“When I first arrived in Derry, I was stressed until I met NWMF…. They brought us a solicitor after we had been looking for a month. Through activities, such as social cafes, tours, cultural nights, art and access to a free gym for 3 months, they made us feel at home and they made us feel that someone cared. They showed us how we could access really important documents such as membership IDs from public libraries. From that point forward, I became motivated to volunteer”
The project has been co-created with newcomer communities and people seeking protection so that it is based on their needs and experiences. As Beverly Simpson explained “This is truly a people led project, designed and developed by a group of people with lived experiences like myself… moving to a new place can be a daunting experience for many. During the development phase of this project, Many people shared their experiences and how the journey to NI impact on their mental health and well-being which will help us ensure that the project really reflects their interests and priorities.”
A detailed programme of activities will be published on the NWMF website and through all social media outlets.
Thank you to the National Lottery Community Fund for funding this project which has been made possible thanks to National Lottery players.
For more information about the New Beginnings project contact