The Welcome Project, mainstream funding from OFMDFM, has been delivering services to migrants and other members of the local community since its inception in 2006. It was established following the EU’s expansion and a sudden increase in numbers of migrant workers coming to Northern Ireland, who arrived in Lisburn’s Old Warren estate with little support. This posed a challenge to those within community who had recently come out of their own conflicts during Northern Ireland’s ‘Troubles’ – do we support and integrate the newcomers? or do we get into conflict again? The answer was simple: hence the birth of The Welcome Project.
Two key groups were involved from the start: local people, including former political prisoners and loyalist political activists, and EU migrants themselves. Of course the initial funding was relatively easy to secure from ‘EU PEACE’ monies, available because of the conflict, with two support posts being created – one local resident, and one from a migrant background. Then began the process of developing support services, but always with the key aim of integration.
This means we provide some services aimed at migrants e.g. training in English Speaking for Other Languages (ESOL), but many others for the whole community like International Children’s Day – which last year attracted over 2,000 people. We have also developed ‘The Welcome House’ – a ‘community house’ provided by Northern Ireland Housing Executive for the project to base itself within a Loyalist working class estate. We tackle Community Safety – linking with police and community representatives to mediate issues within the community, and taking part in a Hate Crime Forum. Our welfare rights work now has NVQ Level III trained staff linking with a local Law Centre, and we have information events for the whole community – supported by the Home Office, tax office, job centre, the housing executive, policing, health and others. Our youth development project is bi-lingual, with qualified youth workers supported by the education authority.
What is our future? The Welcome Project feels it has travelled a journey towards integration and makes a huge contribution towards life in Lisburn City. We feel it is a great time to locate in the city centre and bring our experience of culture and training into new premises. Funded by a cocktail of funders ‘The Welcome House’ could bring a vibrant model into the centre of Lisburn City, reaching into the cultural and arts scene that is now developing.
We look forward to welcoming you to it!
Asia Jarzynska, Project manager
To find out more about the Welcome Project, check out their website: http://www.thewelcomehouse.co.uk/