On the 20th June World Refugee Day is celebrated in many ways across the globe. Last year I was lucky enough to be a part of the celebration in Dublin through Gaisce.
St. Patrick’s Cathedral hosted a welcome gala dinner for migrants living in direct provision centres across Ireland. The dinner was attended by around three hundred refugees and had an absolutely amazing team of volunteers and paid staff working hard as one big team to make the evening a memorable evening. The dinner was being set up from early in the morning until 6:30 in the evening. The set up was tough as part of it was being done while tourists were exploring the cathedral and there were also services taking place, which there had to be complete silence for.
The event then began with a small interfaith service that took place at the Famine Memorial along the Liffey. This service is hosted annually by the Dublin City Interfaith Forum and this year they worked in collaboration with the event organisers from the cathedral to have some of the migrants attend the service. I had the opportunity to attend this service as a volunteer and it was a very mesmerising event as there was speakers from various religious faiths across Dublin. These religious leaders delivered some powerful and emotional true stories of the journeys taken by some refugees throughout the world. These stories were then followed by some insightful prayers. What made this event that extra bit special was the fact that each of the prayers belonged to a different religion and still delivered similar messages. We then assisted the guests to their buses to proceed to the cathedral.
As the guests entered the cathedral. They walked in along a red carpet as they were the guests of honour. When walking through the doors the atmosphere was phenomenal as there were guests mingling together and others were sharing stories with some of the staff and volunteers. There was also two Irish singers, Stephen Leeson and Tommy Keane, performing some Irish ballads as guests entered and took their seats. When all guests were seated the guest of honour, former president of Ireland Mary Robinson, arrived in. The dinner then opened with some very empowering speeches from Dean Morton, of St. Patrick’s Cathedral, and Mary Robinson.
The atmosphere for the night was amazing and conversation levels were high. During the meal a group of young people living in a direct provision centre had put on a fashion show and each of them were just naturally gifted with being entertainers. The costumes were based on cultural dress and were extremely colourful. These costumes had been designed by one young girl in the centre who also taught the group how to model and help develop their confidence. There were also many young children at the dinner and many of the volunteers adapted their roles to help entertain the children, so the parents had an opportunity to relax and enjoy the meal.
During the meal I had a number of conversations with different guests at different times and all had enjoyed the event as they would not get the opportunity to have that much fun within their current accommodation. The one thing that I was taken back by was the positivity from the guests despite their troubles and how they remain so optimistic of one day becoming an Irish citizen. The night then came to a close with a young guest playing some amazing songs on piano. She was an absolutely phenomenal piano player that learned to play the songs by ear as she cannot read music. After her pieces her parents joined her on stage and the pride they had was amazing and they were left speechless from the event.
After my experience with this event I will work with migrants again in the future and highly recommend for anyone at any age to do at least one event with migrants, even if it is just a coffee morning, because it is truly life changing.
The dinner in the cathedral would not have been possible without the hard work from the cathedral staff along with their sponsors, such as Croke Park, Gaisce, Caterwaiter, Butlers Chocolate and the United Nations High Commission for Refugees.