WHILE Christmas means something different in every country, the people of Lisdoonvarna are determined to make sure their newest international residents’ first festive season in Ireland is a special one.
Since last March, the King Thomond Hotel has become home to more than 100 people seeking asylum from a large number of countries, including Somalia, Palestine, Democratic Republic of Congo, Nepal, Iran, Cameroon, Pakistan and Egypt.
Over the last few weeks, several local groups and individuals from as far afield as the University of Limerick, have come forward offering their support in different ways, such as the use of kitchen facilities, lifts to and from Ennis and Limerick, Christmas gift cards, toys and clothes, and even an invitation to the Glór Christmas pantomime.
The residents in the King Thomond have also been getting involved with several events in the community. A group of the ladies spent weeks practicing for the Clare Crusaders’ Christmas-dance fundraiser in aid of children with special needs. Their choreography was rewarded with a third place trophy.
Others showcased their bakery skills for the Lisdoonvarna Community Christmas Fayre to raise money for the primary school’s new playground. Many of them will be cooking recipes from their home countries for the new Anam Cara music and food festival in Ennistymon on Saturday, December 29.
Children from King Thomond have also been involved in school plays and concerts and will also have role to play in Christmas masses, as will some of their parents.
For some of the children, this Christmas will also be the first time they have a visit from Santa Claus, who hasn’t been able to visit their home countries for years for reasons, including war and internal conflict. There was great excitement in the hotel last week when there was a phone call from Lapland inquiring about the number of children staying at the hotel. Santa was delighted to hear that there are children from more than 20 countries at the hotel, which should make for an incredible atmosphere on Christmas Day.