Building partnerships to better serve refugees
The GAA community across the world has rallied in response to the humanitarian crisis caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Members have organised fundraisers and collections of goods and supplies, while clubs and counties have opened their doors to welcome Ukrainian refugees that have been relocated in their communities.
Rallying for housing
In partnership with the Irish Red Cross, the GAA has been calling on its members to register any suitable accommodation or housing for Ukrainian refugees arriving in Ireland. The availability of housing remains a priority for the Irish Red Cross. The GAA has appealed to its community to register any vacant and habitable apartment or house close to schools and services near their club areas at the Red Cross website.
While the Irish Red Cross is still welcoming the registration of available rooms in a family home, such offers require that all persons aged 16+ already living in the house to be vetted, thereby delaying the speed at which such accommodation can be made available (unfortunately existing GAA Garda vetting is not applicable).
Building a community
The Irish Red Cross has also stressed the vital role that the GAA community is providing by extending a warm welcome to refugees being homed in communities across Ireland.
This was echoed by GAA President, Larry McCarthy who said: “While the shelter of a home is essential, and I encourage all members to register any available accommodation they have, the welcome we extend is just as important in helping to buffer our Ukrainian visitors from the trauma of war and displacement.
“The GAA community’s response to the war in Ukraine has been heartening. If you are aware of any refugees having been housed in your community let them know that they are welcome in your GAA club.”
GAA clubs have hosted many welcome days and introductory sessions for refugees. Further, the GAA’s Ard Chomhairle and Coiste Bainistíochta agreed last weekend to make a contribution of €100,000 to the work of the Irish Red Cross in supporting Ukrainian refugees.
What role can the different parts of the sport ecosystem play in refugee situations?
Learning from what we have done at the GAA, we found that it is important to create awareness, and support refugees by opening up our facilities to them and by running specific sport funding campaigns. At the GAA, sport is used as a tool to create understanding, reach out to refugees, and break down barriers of communication, while building friendships.
Telling stories of past refugees who have become high professional sports persons is an important way in which the sport ecosystem can build supportive environments in host communities. This can be done by creating new leaders in this area, whose main job description includes communicating real life success stories and relaying how each person in the sporting world can contribute to supporting and helping new generations.
It is also important to train and employ numerous refugees as sport officers in host communities – this will create a bridge between the hosts and the refugees, while also creating understanding and employment for the refugees.
To successfully integrate refugees through sport, annual education workshops and trainings on how to respond to refugees and their situations is critical. These workshops should be designed in collaboration with the refugees, so that their perspectives and voices are included from the beginning.
It is also important to coordinate with other stakeholders and services with expertise, as GAA has done with the Irish Red Cross, so that your organisation can understand the specific situations and issues that refugees deal with, and the how to approach these issues. Finally, it is integral that sport organisations raise awareness of the services that are already in a community and can help refugees integrate into their new homes.
Some of our awareness work: