THERE are now more than 1,300 Ukrainian refugees in Donegal who have fled the conflict in their home country.
Many of them are women and children and have come to the county with nothing.
This week we spoke to the Donegal Local Development Committee (DLDC) and The Social Inclusion and Community Activation Programme (SICAP), two organisations that are doing trojan working helping the refugees settle in.
Community Development Manager at SICAP, Margaret Larkin said many teenagers are struggling and their mental health is being impacted.
“They are the ones showing signs of trauma. There is a huge need for activities for them over the summer,” she said.
“At the minute there is just over 1,300 refugees in Donegal and that’s all over from Glencolmcille, Kilcar, Carrick, Bundoran, Letterkenny, Kilmacrennan and Milford.
“It’s too big for any one organisation so we are trying to keep it all local in the local areas.”
Ms Larkin said some areas of the county have bigger populations of refugees than others which is putting a strain on local services.
“In places like Bundoran 22 or 23 per cent of the population is now Ukrainian. There isn’t enough services, it is too over populated. That is something we are trying to link back to IPAS (International Protection Accommodation Services) in Dublin about and ask that they take that into consideration.
“If there are so many people in the one area every service is exhausted between medical and GPs, schools, even the local community centre. Nobody can accommodate that number of people coming in and it is a lot of women and children.
“Some people are settling well and others not so much. A lot of people want to be in Letterkenny and the outlying areas. There are people that are in very rural areas but they are very happy because they have seen that the local community is very supportive.”
Noreen O’Kane from DLDC explained their work involves facilitating the refugees while they are here to help them integrate into the community.
They ensure all refugees that arrive have their PPS numbers, liase with the public health nurse and identify if anyone needs medical attention straight away.
They also make sure the refugees have important contact numbers such as NowDoc and the local Garda station if anything should arise. On the ground they identify what needs the refugees have whether that is clothes, medication or items for children.
“A lot of them are obviously very traumatised. It’s about putting ourselves in their shoes and thinking how would we be if we were lifted up and put into Ukraine,” said Ms O’Kane.
“Communication is the main thing and that is what we are facilitating.”
Ms O’Kane said a lot of the refugees are already working in the community.
“They don’t want to be getting social welfare, they want to be part of the community, they want to volunteer, they want to help out,” she said.
“A lot of them are doing trojan work, they are doing translation for everybody.
“People are coming with all their medical problems, people who had been receiving cancer treatment, there are people here having babies, there are people here with twins, it is a mixed bag.”
“There is a Facebook page Support Ukrainians in Donegal and Kevin Connors runs that in Dungloe and he has done very good work connecting people together.”
Appeals are put up on this page and you can check what items may be needed in different areas.
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