THE book club in Miltown Malbay, which is made up of 12 women, met six weeks ago to discuss the possibility of doing something for asylum-seekers living in Direct Provision in Knocklisheen, Meelick.
The group decided that, as some of them have Airbnb accommodation, they would offer families in Knockalisheen a two-night holiday in Miltown. Over the past few weeks, this plan has become a reality.
“We meet with the families – made up of 76 individuals, including eight single women, mums, dads and children,” book club member Lorna Cahill explained.
“Over half of the 76 people we met are children. We met them every Wednesday and, sometimes, twice weekly. The purpose of our meetings is to plan the holiday, with complete consultation, to get to know the families and build relationships and trust. This has proven extremely successful so far.
“As families cannot cook for themselves in the centre, the main focus has been acquiring self-catering accommodation. We have been overwhelmed by the response from our community in Miltown, with offers of accommodation and food flooding in, although we do still need more accommodation.
“Discussions in the centre in Knockalisheen have focused on food, with everyone so excited at the prospect of being able to cater for themselves and sit at a kitchen table to share a meal as a family,” Lorna added.
A number of fundraising initiatives are due to take place in the coming week.
“On Saturday, December 16, The Westbridge in Miltown Malbay will host a concert featuring Johnny Fean (from Horselips) with the Blues Train and Tonto Murphy. There will also be spot prizes, as we have been astounded by the generosity of businesses and individuals in Miltown, who have offered us fantastic prizes,” Lorna said.
A family fun day will take place in January or February, with Des Cahill from RTÉ bag-packing with the St Joseph’s Miltown team in Supervalu and then meeting with the Kilmurry Ibrickane team in Londis.
Furthermore, a number of local primary and secondary schools have agreed to hold jersey days to raise funds.
“Over the weekend they spend in Miltown, the families will be hosting a cookery demonstration to teach us how to make their traditional dishes.
“This is something we are very excited about, as all food prepared will be served on the Sunday afternoon at a gathering for anyone who would like to attend,” Lorna said, before stressing the importance of the visit to Miltown for the families who are living in Knockalisheen.
“We really want to get the word out there that this is a weekend of solidarity with families whose children are Irish (born in Knocklisheen) and we all have so much in common. Some families have been living in the centre for over six years so the prospect of two nights away is hugely exciting.
“The support we have received from individuals and businesses in Miltown has been overwhelming, with the general feeling being one of anticipation and excitement. We have had families approach us to say they will vacate their own homes that weekend to enable a family from Knockalisheen to move in; others have offered up their homes as hosted accommodation.
“Should anyone wish to offer accommodation or services, we can be contacted via our Facebook page, miltownmalbaymeltingpot,” Lorna concluded.