What is the Community Sponsorship Programme?
Community Sponsorship is an exciting programme that gives people across Ireland the opportunity to come together as community sponsorship groups and welcome resettled refugees to their local communities.
Refugee families have often been waiting for years on UNHCR resettlement lists in countries like Jordan and Lebanon. Community Sponsorship is a way to provide a welcome and a new home to people desperately in need of sanctuary.
Community Sponsorship began in December 2018. Since then, almost 20 groups nationwide have taken part in the programme and the number is growing. Several groups have already welcomed refugees to their communities. You can learn more about some of the groups in Cork and the families that have arrived in this feature in The Echo. You can also read about the first Gaeltacht-based Community Sponsorship group in this feature from the Irish Examiner.
Community Sponsorship Groups are asked to prepare supports, fundraise and find accommodation and are then matched with a refugee family in need of resettlement by the Department of Justice. Regional support organisations like Nasc provide support and training to groups throughout the process.
Community Sponsorship groups befriend and help newcomer refugee families to navigate different aspects of life in Ireland. Some of the supports a Community Sponsorship group provide include:
- Preparing in advance for the arrival of a family to your community
- Fundraising in advance of the arrival of the family
- Sourcing accommodation for a period of 24 months for a resettled family or individuals
- Providing supports as needed for a minimum period of 18 month, including:
- Orientation supports in their new home;
- English language provision;
- Interpretation supports;
- Guidance with social welfare etc.
You can view our Community Sponsorship Manual here to get more information on all of these supports.
Why get involved?
We want more people across Ireland to take part in Community Sponsorship. And the good news is that anyone can get involved.
There are lots of reasons to get involved in Community Sponsorship. By getting involved, you are directly supporting and offering friendship to refugees as they move to Ireland for the first time. You are helping to build bridges between newcomers and settled communities and you are bringing people together. Groups we’ve worked with have found the experience overwhelmingly positive and told us that the being part of a community sponsorship group connected people and helped create more welcoming communities.
Read Joan's story and why she became a Community Sponsorship here.
Where do I start?
You could join a group locally or, if there isn’t one in your area, how about starting your own?
We work with lots of groups, all of whom met in different ways. Some already knew each other. Others were complete strangers who responded to a poster in the local shop. All of them have played an important role in welcoming refugees, building open communities and making meaningful connections from the experience. You can read more about how to start a group here.
How has COVID-19 affected Community Sponsorship?
Community sponsorship is still very much open to new groups and several new groups have gotten started throughout 2020. Community Sponsorship is about people and, usually, community sponsors meet and hold events in person to fundraise. This year has put the brakes on those activities for many and forced some to pause their preparations.
Nevertheless, many groups have found creative ways to continue to meet and organise in the circumstances. Using video conferencing apps for meetings and online fundraising platforms such as GoFundMe, groups have managed to stay connected and continue to organise. Indeed, for many it has remained a way to stay linked with neighbours and members of the community. Community sponsorship applications can be processed online, and Nasc has moved our training online so that groups can access training from the comfort of their home.
For the refugee families waiting to be resettled in Lebanon and Jordan, conditions have deteriorated. With the downturn in the economy devastating the service industry, many refugee households have lost their incomes and struggle to access basic necessities such as food and medication. Community sponsorship is now more important than ever in bringing families to safety in Ireland.
How do I find out more?
Want to get involved or find out more? We have lots of useful resources you can read through in the sidebar.
You can also get in touch with our Community Sponsorship Project Officer, Nael Saoud, and we’ll help get you started on your Community Sponsorship journey. Contact Nael at firstname.lastname@example.org.