Active Citizenship and The Story of a Sewing Machine

Over the months of October and November we ran an active citizenship course entitled Get Engaged. It was a course devised by Age and Opportunity to encourage engagement in an initiative that relates to an issue in your community.  Brian Dooney (of Age and Opportunity) and Fionnaigh (a tutor in DALC) worked together over the first few sessions with seven participants.

Initially, the aim was to help the group become a team and to examine what things they may want to change or get involved in. The course covered a number of icebreakers and group work games – such as using marbles to introduce ourselves, bean bag throwing to remember names and music to give us the freedom to be present and focussed in a group.

We did a variety of exercises like personality tests, we looked at what personal strengths we can bring to working as part of a team. We also spent some time discussing other community groups we were previously involved in.

This led to the group beginning to highlight what things they could do in their own community! We decided to work together on a group project – and felt this project would provide transferable skills that the participants could use in their own setting. Our group project was entitled Building Bridges. The aim of it was to have better multicultural integration and understanding among the group themselves. The participants were made up of people from Somalia and Dublin, and a variety of ages and experiences. We got everyone to do some research using tablets in their country, what captures the essence of it, what cultural differences and similarities we have, how food is different but more importantly how society, politics, democracy and the voting system is different. All of these topics came up in our discussion.

We finished on the last day with a chance for everyone in the group to do a presentation using Jamboard (a way of creating a digital poster) and shared some Irish and Somalian snacks! 

What are the outcomes of the project? 

  • Two men said they would support Somalian people in their community who are living in Dublin 
  • One man from Dublin said he would like to start a gaming hour – encouraging people to come and play board games in this learning centre as a way of engaging people
  • A woman from Somalia who participated on the course asked for a sewing machine! One of our tutors in DALC provided it – as it was lying idle up in her attic! And now this Somalian woman is planning to use it as a way of helping young women to fix their clothes or their children’s clothes. As she is doing it, she can engage them in conversation, tell them about other services and English classes that are available. 

If a sewing machine – fixing, mending, adjusting, learning – is not a good analogy for community engagement, I don’t know what is!

For more information, see https://ageandopportunity.ie/

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