Roscommon locals build 'welcome wall' for Syrian refugees

The public are writing welcoming messages for the incoming families

Roscommon locals build 'welcome wall' for Syrian refugees

Image: Richard Chambers

The local people of Ballaghaderreen, Co.Roscommon, are building a “welcome wall” in advance of the arrival of over 80 Syrian refugees to the town early next month.

The five-panel art installation will be on display at Duffy’s Supervalu supermarket in Ballaghaderreen tomorrow, Saturday 11th, when hundreds of members of the public are expected to drop in and write welcome messages for the Syrian families.

Interpreters will be available at the supermarket throughout the day to translate the welcoming messages into Arabic or Syrian for those who would like to communicate in this way.

The back of the wall will be left blank for a space for the Syrian refugees to write their own messages to the local community if they wish to do so.

The wall, which was designed by local artist Maria Fleming and her family, has "rays of hope" and a swallow in the design as "another symbol of hope and happiness" according to the artist's website.

Maria said that:

"We wish all the refuges a happy, safe and prosperous life in Ireland. We can’t wait to see the finished wall, filled with messages of welcome and love."

Once the wall has been filled with messages, it will then be moved to the foyer of the emergency reception and orientation centre at the former Abbeyfield hotel in the town, which is expected to be home for the group of Syrian families for up to six months.

The Ballaghaderreen Welcome Wall. Photo credit: The Greener Dream

The wall is part of The Welcome to Roscommon movement, a community organisation that created following the announcement by the Department of Justice on January 6th that 82 Syrian refugees, mostly with young families, would be accommodated in Ballaghaderreen.

The welcome wall is just one of a number of projects being organised by the community in advance of the arrival of the refugees, 37 of whom are children.

An outdoor play area is being built by students at Galway Mayo Institute of Technology while a collaboration involving the Irish Fairy Door company, graphic designers Roomthree and local volunteers are putting together an indoor play area at the centre.

Other projects underway include the creation of an intercultural language library, with the Welcome to Roscommon movement on a "book hunt" for donations of books in Arabic. They are also running training for volunteers to take part in Conversational English classes to assist the refugees with their language skills when they arrive.

The first group of Syrians who are to live in Ballaghaderreen flew into Ireland on Tuesday evening. They are currently staying at the Baleskin reception centre in North Dublin where they have access to an on site HSE medical centre.