Beyond migration: Learning for an Understanding and Inclusive Society

I will start with a quote by Maya Angelou,
“Perhaps travel cannot prevent bigotry, but by demonstrating that all peoples cry, laugh, eat, worry, and die, it can introduce the idea that if we try and understand each other, we may even become friends.” 

We only need to look around us to appreciate the various cultures, faiths and diverse backgrounds of those that have settled in Northern Ireland. In recent times, Northern Ireland has seen increases in both population size and diversity, stretching beyond the two traditional communities. Post-conflict, the net increase in people, according to NISRA’s, ‘Long-term International Migration Statistics was by 1,500 people by mid -2016. This was the third successive year that the number of people who came to live in Northern Ireland exceeded the number who left. The countries that people migrated from include Romania, Poland, China, Portugal, RoI, Syria, Hungary, Bulgaria and Lithuania.

With this in mind, in 2014, a year when unfortunately the rise of racial incidents was recorded at 921 incidents (statistic report, Police Service of Northern Ireland), CRAICNI was ‘hatched” by four trainers who came from four different cultural backgrounds, Chinese, Polish, Traveller and Muslim.  Each of the trainers had skills and experiences that could address issues of cultural awareness, equality and diversity and community relations and better equip people to integrate into Northern Irish society and also for the indigenous community to understand others better.

CRAICNI is a social enterprise and we work as in our acronym, to Cultivate Respect, Appreciate Inclusion across Communities with our base in Northern Ireland to promote inclusion and diversity through training and educational programmes. Four years from inception and incorporated as a Community Interest Company governed by a board of Directors, all from various backgrounds, CRAICNI was shortlisted in 2017 in the Chief Officers’ Third Sector Awards in the Social Innovation category. We now have over 15 nationalities and those from Northern Ireland working as trainers, facilitators and researchers ranging from Spain, India to the Philippines, the USA to Sweden and more to meet our mission of creating an inclusive and understanding intercultural society based on mutual respect.

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Image may contain: one or more people, screen and indoor

Recently, we were delighted that two of our clients, the Belfast Social Care and Health Trust where we trained nursing and health professional in promoting diversity in the workplace to Clanmil Housing Association where we trained both staff and tenants on our ‘Cultural Cuisine With Me’ course, we won top awards in 2018 for Equality and Diversity. Bernadette O’Donnell, Clanmil Human Resources Officer, who attended this course states,

“At Clanmil we are about people and making a positive difference for our tenants and the communities we work in.  Equality and diversity are fundamental to everything we do and a strategic focus for our business.  The CRAICNI ‘Cultural Cuisine with Me’ programme has helped colleagues understand, appreciate and respect other cultures.  Learning, cooking and eating together in a social and fun environment has helped build shared values that influence how we work successfully together to deliver our goals.” 

At CRAICNI, we believe if anything, understanding cultures, differences, awareness and being culturally competent can be achieved through education by giving people the opportunity to learn and from our best resource, our diverse training team who come with experience, passion and skills and enthusiasm to impart their knowledge.

We offer a range of courses, as we listen to people’s needs, become aware of the society we live in and of global issues as many of our trainers bring an extra dimension to their training from the backgrounds they have grown up in, the richness in their cultures and faiths and also with an understanding of the gaps of knowledge to aid mutual understanding.

With negative attitudes to newcomer communities, bad press and myths and stereotypes influencing people to be unwelcoming or intolerant to asylum seekers and refugees, we developed our accredited course, OCN Level 2 in ‘Refugee and Asylum Matters,’  (with Level 3 coming out in the Autumn, due to  demand), through the expertise of our trainer, Dr Edie Shillue to support those working with asylum seekers and refugees, to know more of how the government addresses the needs and gain an understanding of the basics about the right to claim asylum.  Our first two courses is a project supported by the Community Foundation for Northern Ireland through the Social Justice Programme.

Manal, one of our students on the course with a law background, came to NI when she was young from Libya and wishes to work with refugees and asylum seekers in the future.

“I attended ‘Introduction to Refugee Resettlement and Asylum Processes’ offered by CRAIC NI, with the objective of gaining a basic grounding in the legal frameworks underpinning refugee and asylum processes. The course has so far exceeded my expectations in exploring the wider context of these issues. 

The structure of the course, range of learning materials, high-quality teaching and thought-provoking discussions, have all contributed to a deeper understanding of the complex issues surrounding refugee and asylum matters. The course has been highly valuable for me and has already informed my voluntary work with refugee communities. ”      Manal


Edie, our trainer, says,

“I think that clarity and consistency of information about the asylum process and resettlement resources isvital for community sector.  Service users and employees can and should understand the full range of rights and services for incoming communities. Employees in the community, health and education sectors are crying out for this training, to better inform them of the processes and procedures entailed in resettlement and asylum matters.  They very enthusiastically attend sessions and discuss the complexity of the issues and the diversity of the responses.”

At CRAICNI, we are constantly updating the range of courses to suit current times and ensure a positive, learning experience as can be seen on our website, is external)

We encourage a learning environment of #GoodCraic where learners are left with a feeling of achievement and a sense of enjoyment that enables learners to take positive actions for a society that embraces diversity through education and understanding to become ‘friends.’

Eileen Chan-Hu, Executive Director, CRAICNI






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