Promoting Dignity in Refugee/Immigrant Host Communities

“It is the obligation of every person born in a safer room to open the door when someone in danger knocks.”
                                                                       — Dina Nayeri, Iranian-American Novelist

                            Register for the Preparatory Online Meetings:

                                                                              25th September 2020 at 4pm UK time


Do you know the power of art, food, music in building bridges between migrant/refugee communities and host societies?

Our refugee/migrant projects aim to highlight what brings refugee and migrant communities together with host societies through initiatives in Cyprus and Ireland which will add to a wider European and global conversation about how we can create spaces for refugee and migrant voices in our host communities. We propose to link the activities of the Rotary Club with existing initiatives involving art, food, and music. Finally, we also propose that Rotary Club members will be able to use their business networks to improve the lives of asylum seekers and refugees integrating into the labour system in Europe. This workshop will present four projects to be developed, which seek to build bridges between migrant/refugee communities and host communities and have amplified grassroots voices, thus encouraging increased dignity through social music projects for children, visual arts, and food.

Project 1 proposes the collaboration between Rotary Clubs and El Sistema inspired programs and aims to promote the social integration of refugee and migrant communities in their new societies through a social music project for children. Sistema Cyprus is identified as an inspiring organization with the experience and professional capacity to lead this project through each step of its implementation. Sistema Cyprus is an El Sistema inspired social music orchestra and choir program that aims to provide music education to migrant, refugee and disadvantaged children and young people in Cyprus.

Project 2  proposes a thematic, interdisciplinary/ cross-sectorial Artist-in-Residence program for young visual artists. It restates the central role of artists in the society as social change-makers and young leaders willing to work for the promotion of human rights and peacebuilding. Participants will conduct research in their communities, join the residency workshops, and produce artworks during their studio time that will be used in public events and exhibitions to engage with the local communities. Professional artist mentors will support participants in the production of their original social artworks. Workshops specific to social artists focusing on human rights, democratic values and peacebuilding principles will be conducted by Visual Voices staff.


Outcomes/Outputs: improved capacity of participants, production of visual art from each participant, artist network.

Project 3 proposes a collaboration between the Rotary Club and migrant-led catering organisations to highlight the beauty and diversity of cooking as a mode of communication between migrant/refugee communities and other communities living in Europe. As the Rotary Club focuses many of its fundraising efforts around food, let us make the breaking of bread a bridge between Rotarians and migrant communities. This project will focus on the importance of food as a form of activism and breaking down of barriers. It will highlight the importance of food in the preservation and celebration of diverse cultural heritages, through the sharing of recipes. It will underline the importance of food in bringing up children in a healthy and dignified manner and draw the attention of the participants to how unacceptable reception conditions can affect family clusters and households. The Ireland-based partner for this project is Our Table ( run by Ellie Kisyombe. The project also proposes to highlight other refugee groups in Ireland who bring dignity to families such as Every Child is Your Child ( and Cooking for Freedom ( within fundraising efforts through local Rotary Clubs. See more on Our Table here:

​Partner organisation: Ellie Kisyombe from Our Table. Originally from Malawi, Ellie Kisyombe came to Ireland almost a decade ago and spent many years living in Direct Provision. During this time,she recognised how people in Direct Provision could have better ways of living, better opportunities and be better able to contribute to the community. Her experiences in the system led her to draw attention to the values and strength she was taught by her family. She co-founded Our Table in 2015 as a response to the ban on asylum seekers cooking for themselves and to create opportunities for work and volunteer experiences for people coming through the asylum system. Through pop-up cafés and catering services Our Table has already begun to create employment opportunities for people and the project continues to gather momentum. She now runs a successful catering company which offers job opportunities to people coming out of the asylum system.


Outcomes/Outputs: Collaborating with and supporting migrant-led food initiatives for cooking and catering purposes for Rotary events.

Project 4 proposes a Rotary-led initiative to use the business and community networks of  Rotarians to sponsor asylum-seekers or recent refugees in professional paid traineeship positions in local communities, ensuring a beneficial business experience for those uprooted from their home countries and who may be having difficulties integrating into the local business sector. Dr Ebun Joseph of University College Dublin recently published work on the discrimination faced by many migrant groups in accessing local labour markets in Ireland, stating a trend across Europe (, and this is often exacerbated by spending a significant amount of time waiting for a decision to be made on one’s refugee status and limitations in access to job markets. A traineeship programme matching Rotarian to uprooted individuals will be beneficial not only for the trainees (who will gain local work experience and build networks) but also for local Rotarians, who will benefit from new perspectives and build bridges between communities from across the globe.  

It is proposed to link with several grassroots organisations in Ireland (Movement of Asylum Seekers in Ireland, New Communities Partnership, the Africa Centre, the Irish Refugee Council, the Migrant Rights Centre etc.) and the programme could be suggested to be Rotary-led and possibly pan-European if local Rotarian could suggest connections.

Sinead McGrath
Marios Antoniou, Ph.D

Rotarian Peace Projects Incubator

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