One of the most successful community projects in Lisburn has been dealt a severe blow after the Office of the First and Deputy First Minister rejected their funding application.
The Welcome Project, which is part of the Resurgam Trust in Old Warren, has been working hard for almost a decade to help foreign nationals who have moved to the area to integrate with the local community.
The project, which offers advice on a wide range of issues, including housing and financial matters, also runs a host of classes, courses and events, which encourage local people to get to know those settling in the estate, as well as helping newcomers to feel part of the community.
A wide range of nationalities have benefited from the work of the project, including Polish, Lithuanian, Latvian, Slovakian, Czech Republic, Ukrainian, Russian and Hungarian. Members of the indigenous Lisburn community have also benefited from the work of the Welcome Project and have enjoyed getting to know their new neighbours.
The Welcome Project, which is managed by Asia Jarzynska and community worker Olga Dominiak, has been a huge success in helping to mediate and deal with any issues that arise in the community and events, such as the recent International Children’s Day, which was held in Old Warren Primary School and organised by the Welcome Project, saw hundreds of people come together to celebrate a wide range of cultures and nationalities.
Local agencies, including the Housing Executive and the PSNI have noted the benefit of the project, with one officer in particular being a huge advocate for the retention of the project.
Sergeant Greg Smyth said: “I am the Hate and Signal Crime Officer (HSCO) for Lisburn and Castlereagh District PSNI and in the last eight years I have had the opportunity to work closely with Welcome House, who I have witnessed meeting the needs of migrant families that have settled in the Lisburn area.
“The project has been very supportive of the work of Lisburn police to deliver engagement with local migrant communities, supporting vulnerable victims of hate crime; enabling and empowering victims to bring issues and crimes to the attention of the police and criminal justice system. I see the Welcome Project as a vital partner to local police and I am confident this bond will continue to strengthen.”
Philip dean, Chairman of the Resurgam Trust, the umbrella group under which the Welcome Project is organised, said he was deeply disappointed at the decision by OFMDFM and had appealed their decision to cut the funding. “We will be looking for funding elsewhere and the work of the Welcome Project will continue but it is serious blow and I cannot understand the reasoning behind it,”