I can think of little demonstrating ongoing solidarity during lockdown more than the response of Abolish Direct Provision towards both others in direct provision and the wider Irish community. When people were lonely, confused and uncertain – some in a new country with few to no wider supports – ADP created a safe and welcoming atmosphere for all, in the form of nightly Zoom meetings and their continuing Friendship Project.
Throughout the more restrictive periods of lockdown, Zoom meetings ran every evening of the week. There were often thirty plus people from diverse backgrounds and cultures joining together to discuss matters such as nutrition and maternity needs, upcoming art initiatives and community gardens, all the way to initiatives on period poverty and mental health. These meetings were extremely interactive, encouraging us all to join in creative writing exercises and inviting everyone who was keen to entertain us all with their musical abilities. Perhaps of particular interest were the breakout group events in which we were lucky enough to be assigned a particular room which would align with a specific country: there, generous members of the group would regale us with stories about their home country, widening our understanding of the world and giving us an added appreciation for the lived experiences of our diverse international community.
I was also fortunate to make a wonderful new friend through ADP’s Friendship project last summer. I was paired up with an individual who had recently arrived in Dublin, with an eye towards learning more about each other and our cultures. While it was difficult being unable to meet up in person for so long, keeping in contact over WhatsApp gave us an incredible opportunity to forge a meaningful and lasting friendship during a lonely period for everyone. There are no doubt many people around the country who have had their lives enriched through the project: finally meeting in person this August was without question one of the highlights of this year.
Most recently, I had the opportunity to return to support the ADP Campaign in an in-person capacity, at the school supplies event in the Teachers Club on Parnell Square. Direct provision groups from around the country came to Dublin to attend a meeting with the Lord Mayor, while the children spent a morning and afternoon participating in drawing competitions, playing board games and generally making friends and enjoying each others company for the first time in a long while. Having the chance to facilitate this time of very necessary play and presenting these children’s parents with vouchers for much-needed school supplies was a huge honour. I can only hope that the kids had half as much fun as I did.
Those of us who were lucky enough to be involved in these projects will, I am sure, fondly remember a time when we were welcomed into a community which celebrated each individual’s culture: their folklore, their cooking, their music and games. A community which was strengthened thanks to everyone’s kindness and attention, which established a safe haven in a time of strife. I look forward to future events!