"We are all connected..."

Katie at the ISU office at Mount Sion in Waterford.
Katie at the ISU office at Mount Sion in Waterford.

Date: 15 Apr 2014

Katie Krommenhoek is a Volunteer Coordinator and Fundraising Intern at the Integration and Support Unit at Mount Sion in Waterford. Here she reflects on her experience to date...

Before I began my position as a Volunteer Coordinator and Fundraising intern with the Integration and Support Unit, I thought I had a pretty informed grasp on humanitarian issues. When I began my internship - I had recently relocated from the United States - and being new to Ireland myself, it was important that I became well-versed in the circumstance and issues facing the clients who I wanted to assist. As it turns out, what I didn’t know could fill a book!

I did not understand or truly comprehend the extent of the stipulations and restraints that are faced by those in the Asylum Process while being forced to live in Direct Provision accommodation centres in Ireland. I did not know that they cannot cook or decide their own meals (even for their children), they have to use shared bathroom facilities, live in small rooms with their children or if single, their new roommate(s). Sometimes up to four men are expected to share a small room space with little storage options for their meagre belongings. I did not know for many of them, getting a good night’s sleep was nearly impossible.

I did not know that the process could take many long drawn out years (in our experience in Waterford up to 11 years), and during this time people are not allowed to have gainful employment or attend traditional higher education opportunities. During my own worst bouts of homesickness, I can comfort myself by preparing meals that remind me of my family and home. I can spend time with my fiancé, who has relocated with me. I can fluently write, communicate, and speak the language of the country I am now living in. I have my own apartment where I can carve out my own small piece of privacy, and decorate, or cry, or call my family, who are safe and free even in my worst moments of loneliness. Few of these precious luxuries are afforded to people in the Direct Provision system, that are relocated from situations of war, political unrest, famine, natural disaster, or genocide in their home country.

I wholeheartedly believe that the work of the Integration and Support Unit in Mount Sion, Waterford is filling a much needed gap of human rights responses, information and education needs to very marginalised people now living here. They provide services and programmes that ease the transition between the geographic places across the globe: places where people receive services on the ground in their home countries through crises intervention NGOs, and the point where they can become involved and integrated members of Ireland with the assistance of domestic NGOs. I don’t believe that there is a better place or way I could be spending my time in Ireland.

I bring with me a range of skills from past NGO placements including AmeriCorps and United Way including English Language tuition as well as volunteer management and fund raising capacities. My time here constantly reminds me of something one of the clients once said to me:

“Katie, in all joy and all sorrow; in all these things, we are all connected.”

It is my hope, that in my time at the ISU, I will promote this message to as many people in Ireland and abroad as I can, and bring to light the situations our clients face, and the importance of the humanitarian work being done at the Integration and Support Unit.

As fundraising is part of my duties at the ISU I know that they are very appreciative of local agencies, national organisations and faith based organisations who fund many of the educational programmes on offer to our clients. I have found them to be most transparent in how that funding is spent and allocated to programmes where it is evident that 100% of programme costs goes to benefit the clients directly. In the future we need to expand our options for fundraising out to the Corporate sector to assist with programme costs, IT Supports, volunteer training, human rights awareness campaigns and regular overheads to enable programmes to continue and of course to continue with our research & development programmes to identify innovative new ways of how we can best serve our client groups particularly through technology supports.

I look forward to continuing this work with the Integration and Support Unit and hope that if our readers anywhere across the globe have something to offer by way of programme supports, sharing of knowledge and expertise, volunteering hours, corporate assistance through pro bono work, assistance with raising I.C.T capital, forming cross cultural or interdisciplinary partnerships, raising capital through social responsibility organisational staff fundraising or making a once off donation, they won’t hesitate to contact us @ Integration and Support Unit, Mount Sion, Barrack Street, Waterford, Ireland, +353 (0)51 852564.

Thank You, Katie Krommenhoek.