I was on a year out from university, sitting at home helplessly watching the injustices of the world unfold from my computer screen, when I found ADPI’s page on Facebook and got in contact. I am so glad I did; since then, I have been involved in all sorts of events, from fundraising quizzes to Christmas parties to now helping to prepare this book for publication, and every event only drives home to me more the importance of campaigning against direct provision.
One of the things that I love about ADPI is its joint focus both on the campaign to abolish direct provision and on support for those living in the inhumane system. It is a campaign that genuinely cares about those it is trying to help, and works to improve lives in the short term as well as the long term. One of my fondest memories was volunteering at the Christmas party for children during lockdown, when the party had to be held on Zoom. I had helped out at an in-person party before, but this was completely different. I felt like a fool; I had dressed up in my home with the hat and jumper of Father Christmas and was covered in tinsel when nobody else in my family was even thinking about Christmas! But my awkwardness evaporated once the children’s faces began to appear in little squares on the screen – we played Christmas game after Christmas game, mimed outrageous stories about lions eating Father Christmas and I even led a Christmas dance session, which exhausted me far more than it did the children! We ended with a Christmas singalong that was horrendously out of sync on Zoom, but that everyone seemed to enjoy.
It is difficult not to leave events like this conflicted. It is hugely rewarding to help at such events, particularly with children – to see their moods lifted as they dance and play would soften the hardest heart. Yet it is simultaneously deeply angering to see such suffering and injustice faced by those living not even an hour from me, treated as subhuman simply because they were not born in Ireland. The cramped quarters and difficult conditions are visible even on a Zoom screen, and only more so in person. It is a strange experience, being uplifted by the outpouring of love and mutual aid at such events even whilst you are deflated and disgusted by the callousness and cruelty that humanity is equally capable of. Yet in this mix of emotions, I have never once regretted volunteering; every event is a chance to make a difference, whether that is raising awareness on the political stage of the plight of asylum seekers or simply seeing a smile on a child’s face. If you are in two minds about volunteering, take this article as a sign that you should. I can promise you: you won’t regret it.