On Thursday June 15th the 2016- 2017 Graduation Ceremony for the Carlow Failte Isteach Programme took place in the Seven Oaks Hotel.  22 different nationalities were present to see Certificates presented by Jim Deane,  the Lord Major of Carlow to 45 students who had completed the Programme in the past year and to hear encouraging words from Pat Deering TD and Micheal Brennan,  Chief Officer at Carlow County Council. There were also inspiring and moving testimonials from Zena and Jason, two of  the volunteer tutors on the programme as well as from some of the participants themselves. There was also a lovely musical ending to the evening with Beiba, one of the students, performing two songs for the assembled group.

In his opening words, Karl Duffy,  Social Inclusion Manager with Carlow County Development Partnership spoke of the dramatic changes which have taken place in Carlow and the rest of Irish society over the past 25 years:

“In its essence, migration is an expression of a desire for happiness and quality of life which is proper to every human being, a happiness that is to be sought and pursued. And now in Ireland we are in a position to offer a welcome to people coming to us in search of a better and happier life, and to accompany  them on that very human quest. One of the goals of the SICAP programme is to support people on their journey towards personal development and greater participation in the social and economic life of Carlow. And the way we like to do this in Carlow County Development Partnership is by supporting those members of the Carlow community who are motivated to work for greater inclusion and,  in the case of Failte Isteach, to welcome people who have come to Carlow in a very practical way, by helping them with their English.

Sadly, we hear reports from all over Europe and from Ireland of responses that are rooted in fear saying that we should close our doors. But what we see in Failte Isteach is an attitude aimed at overcoming indifference and countering those fears by a generous approach of welcoming those who knock at our doors. So I welcome you to this evening –  a celebration of steps made on a journey together, an acknowledgment of a job well done and a looking forward to a positive future. We are very proud of this programme –  of the work done by Carlow County Development staff, of our coordinator Sandra, of the volunteer tutors – and intend over the next few months to reshape, expand and make the Programme even stronger”