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Clare library wins prize with ‘Syrian Connections’ project

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THE fruits of a literacy project for immigrant families to share their stories that began in a north Clare school has earned a national award for Clare County Council.
The Council has been presented with the Chambers Ireland 2020 Excellence in Local Government ‘Best Library Service’ Award for the project, ‘Connections: Stories by Syrian Families in County Clare’.
The presentation of the award was made at Shannon Library by the Chief Executive Officer of Shannon Chamber, Helen Downes, to representatives of Clare County Council.
‘Connections’ is a compilation of written and illustrated stories in which the authors – children and adults – recall real places and experiences and imagine a bright future in Ireland and, in particular, in County Clare.
The publication is primarily the result of a literacy project shared by children of Ennistymon National School, Scoil Mhainchín, with their parents and siblings.
The objective of this library initiative in the ‘Right to Read’ programme was to give space for each parent and child to connect and have fun together as a group as well as improving the participants’ oral literacy and writing in English.
The project began with an invitation to Syrian families (who had come to Ireland through the UN resettlement programme) to use their local library and to offer them a special project where they could share their stories and work as a group.
The workshops were facilitated at Ennistymon Library by visiting author, Debbie Thomas. Illustration workshops were led by illustrator, Tatyana Feeney. With assistance from Poetry Ireland, iBbY Ireland and Creative Ireland, the project was initiated and managed by Clare County Library.
The Cathaoirleach of Clare County Council, Cllr Mary Howard, said: “The ‘Connections’ project has been a hugely positive one, that demonstrates the power of storytelling and writing in linking two very diverse cultures. I congratulate the library service, the project organisers and participants, and the children and adults who shared their stories.”

Pat Dowling, Clare County Council’s Chief Executive, congratulated everyone involved in achieving the award: “Projects such as this enable members of the community in Clare to share their experiences, and greatly enrich the cultural and social life of the community. It is wonderful to see such a worthy project being recognised at a national level.”
Cllr Gerry Flynn, Chair of the Social Development Strategic Policy Committee, Clare County Council, said: “This project reflects many of the positive characteristics of County Clare – creativity, diversity, and a collective focus on working together to strengthen our communities. Congratulations who everyone who participated on achieving this notable award.”
Anne Haugh, Director of Social Development, Clare County Council, said that initiatives such as ‘Connections’ give a voice to people who have suffered greatly in their home countries, and allow them time and space to heal and reflect on what is gone.
“The stories in ‘Connections’ provide an insight into the recent history of Syria, and the experience of relocating to Ireland. Through this unique book, these stories are now part of the culture of County Clare. They remind us that hope can sustain us in difficult days. The project involved both children and parents and it was great to see such a positive and collaborative project achieve the Excellence in Local Government award for Best Library Service,” she noted.
Ms Downes, Chief Executive Officer, Shannon Chamber, said: “Congratulations to Clare County Library on initiating such an imaginative project. The publication is a true testament that reading, storytelling and writing is not isolated to anyone; it is an entitlement. It is wonderful to read a sharing of such richness. Experiencing different cultures opens our minds and allows us to be more holistic in our views of life and the world. It is a great achievement to have a County Clare project of this nature recognised in the Chambers Ireland Local Government Awards.”
‘Connections: Stories by Syrian Families in County Clare’ was awarded the Chambers Ireland 2020 Excellence in Local Government Award in the Best Library Service category in November 2020. The award of a crystal bowl was presented at Shannon Library on Thursday, May 27.

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