DkIT lecturer Coletta Dalikenipicture: arthur kinahan
A DkIT lecturer is leading the way in creating a more inclusive and welcoming environment for the newest members of the local community.
Dr. Colletta Dalikeni is a social care lecturer at the local institute and she spoke with the Democrat to explain the work being done by the Places of Sanctuary project at DKIT.
“Places of Sanctuary is a movement across the UK and Ireland which aims to create cultures of welcome and inclusion for asylum seekers, refugees and migrants. DKIT have committed to becoming a place of sanctuary through, encouraging learning about issues connected to migration and creating engagement between refugees, asylum seekers and the College community. The project hopes to bring together asylum seekers, refugees, DKIT staff and students and the wider community to discuss how DKIT and Dundalk might become a place of welcome for those seeking sanctuary.”
In early 2018 Dr. Dalikeni and a colleague Dr Bernadette Brereton took it upon themselves to propose the idea to their seniors at DKIT. Senior Management at DKIT not only welcomed the initiative, but also supported it by quickly setting up a steering committee composed of dedicated staff members.
Dr. Dalikeni detailed some of the activities undertaken by the local branch.
“We are really at the very early stages of setting up sanctuary and our activities at the minute are centred around raising awareness, so we are trying to do small activities to shine a light on the plight of asylum seekers and refugees locally.” Dr. Dalikeni continued.
“It is my experience that most people and a lot of our students don’t know what it’s all about. When you talk about the fact that asylum seekers get only 21 euro per week or that they are not entitled to any social welfare benefits or third level education, people seem surprised, but this is the everyday reality for asylum seekers. People just don’t know these things.”
Students and staff at DKIT have already begun to do their part. At Christmas some members of the project’s steering committee visited the direct provision centre in Mosney to give the children at the centre Christmas gifts donated by the DKIT community.
A series of awareness raising talks organised by the sanctuary steering committee at DKIT have also been taking place. Just last week the committee organised a speaker from the Irish Refugee Council to talk about the challenges asylum seekers encounter in trying to access third level education.
Planning is also underway for a rollout of a part time social inclusion and diversity course designed by Dr. Dalikeni. The part time course will raise awareness about migration issues including challenges faced by migrants, the contributions they make to host countries and strategies for migrant integration in local communities. Dr. Dalikeni also hopes the course will be picked up by the local county council, by the local business community and the community more generally.
“We are making small steps, but we believe these small steps are very effective. The vision is to make DKIT a College of Sanctuary and Dundalk a town of Sanctuary” concluded Dr. Dalikeni.