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Integration through education

Thursday, 7th March, 2013 4:02am

It was a momentous occasion for 16 women who graduated from the Cork Integration Project at City Hall last Thursday.

The Cork Integration Project is a free course that was run over two years to offer practical education to legally resident migrant women living in Cork.

For one woman, Sutmui Cheong, from Macau China, it was a particularly poignant day as the course helped her to secure her new job with the Irish Wheelchair Association.

“It was a great day, I was delighted to meet Lord Mayor Buttimer and the whole class went out for dinner after to celebrate.

“During the course we did a lot of work on cover letters, CVs and interview skills which really helped me when I was looking for work.”

Course co-ordinator for the education program Emer McCarthy said she was delighted with how the course had went. “The course was held on Thursday and Friday mornings to facilitate the women with school age children and we also offered childcare facilities to those with younger children.”

The Cork Integration Project, which is a joint initiative between Nasc, Cois Tine, Cork Midsummer Festival and Mayfield Arts Newbury House, offered education that the women could use day to day.

“The classes included English, computer skills, personal effectiveness, CV and interview preparation and also things like the law, health and social protection,” Ms McCarthy said.

“Other aspects of the course included food safety, as many of the participants were interested in setting up a food business, introduction to the education system, leadership training and intensive classes on how to set up your own business, including how to budget.”

Ms McCarthy said watching the students develop throughout the course was a very rewarding experience. “Most people had a minimal level of English when they started and it was a privilege to watch their confidence grow as their English improved.”

Ms Cheong said although she had been in Ireland since 2007 before doing the course, her English was terrible because she did not interact with Cork people.

"When I first moved here I didn't understand the Cork accent, it was too quick for me, but now my English is better and I can understand it, it is easier to meet new people.”

Ms McCarthy said she hopes the course will help the women lead full and active lives here in Cork. “These are all lovely women who will all contribute to the life of the city in a positive and proactive way.”

Although the course is over Ms Cheong said she continue to meet with friends she made over the two years. “We meet in town and have coffee or lunch and sometimes they come over for dinners. We are all looking forward to 16 March when we are going to Emer's house for her daughter's birthday."

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