When Ian Jackson, CEO and Co-Founder of Enshored was asked to support 20 Afghan women to flee the country for a safe haven in Ireland, he responded ‘yes’ immediately. He pledged tens of thousands for the support package and Enshored has gone on to provide infrastructure support to the Irish resettlement team.
With the fall of Kabul, Ireland’s agile humanitarian response swung into action. The warm and welcoming nature of the. Irish people is recognized across the globe. The Irish welcome, Cead Mile Failte – A Hundred Thousand Welcomes – gives an indication as to the passion with which the Irish engage visitors from far and wide into their homes and into their hearts.
But Ireland also has a long and recent history with emigration resulting in one of the largest diasporas in the world. Millions of Irish emigrated from a poverty-stricken, war-torn colonial island and were flung to the four corners of the world. Many thrived, plenty didn’t, and were left vulnerable, exploited, and alone.
Ciaran Cannon, East Galway’s elected Parliamentarian, was instrumental in getting the girls into Ireland. He said, “Irish people often reflect on our history of famine and emigration, recalling the deep trauma that our people suffered as they found themselves thousands of miles from home and families. Who among us wouldn’t have reached out a hand of love and support to those people at the time? We are privileged to share our home with our guests, young people, who also find themselves thousands of miles from home, young people who have shown extraordinary courage and resilience in making their journey here. We will work with them in building a bright future, a future where they can play their part in creating a more equal and just world.”
The plight of the Afghan women spoke to a deep familiarity of the Irish people with emigration, which is why so many citizens reached out to the government and asked them to bend the rules to support these girls trying to flee the Taliban.
Cead Mile Failte
Two Irish women, Anne McNamara and Andrea Martin, connected with Marina LeGree, the CEO of Ascend Athletics in Kabul to help her evacuate over 70 female athletes from Kabul. With no international or foreign political background, they lobbied the Irish government to grant visas to 20 Ascend women.
The Irish government was one of the fastest to respond to the crisis. Within days they amended the rules to allow the fast-tracking of as many women as possible. The sticking point was that the reception centers in the country were already at capacity. The only option was the community would have to absorb any further refugees.
On Friday evening Eibhlin Byrne, the government lead on the Afghan refugee crisis, outlined that if the community could support the resettlement, the government could facilitate the 20 visas. Supporting 20 refugees arriving with only 20kg of baggage would take an exceptional level of resources – homes, hosts, financial support, and a plan for integration. Within days the two women on the ground had a plan, underpinned by Enshored’s financial backing. 24 hours later, the visas weregranted and a new future lay ahead for 20 young people.
“What this group of mighty Irish people did to help settle these amazing women into the community will continue to astound me,” said Anne. “Without a second thought, they said ‘We’ll help… What can we do?’ From there, we found homes, English classes, bicycles, cell phones and sim cards, medical care, clothes, welcome packs, taxi services, and sporting club memberships. There is no end to their compassion.”
The Afghan women were part of a group called Ascend Athletics, which has been developing Afghan girls’ physical fitness and community leadership training since 2014.
Participants undertake two years of training that develops their physical strength, confidence, leadership skills, and community engagement.
The women’s achievements have been the subject of a European documentary highlighting their achievements.
Ian Jackson stated, “The Taliban takeover of Afghanistan is having a devastating impact on the freedoms and empowerment of women. While we are helpless to support at a macro level, we are determined to help where we can. For us, it’s not just about financial support. We have years of experience working in the developing world where we have come face to face with poverty- related issues; from the poverty of opportunity to poverty of mindset.
We know how much work it takes to support people to achieve their potential and that is why we are in this for the long run. We undertake deep work with our 1,500 strong team on empowerment, mindset shift, personal development, and achieving potential. When the time is right, we will support the Ascend girls in Ireland with this skill development. What is the point of being in business if you can’t make a difference?”
Where to next?
The story is just beginning. The barriers ahead are significant. This massive cultural shift is a challenge and this is where the community’s support has been essential in their transition. As a country, Ireland may be small, but it has mighty compassion. We’ve got their backs. We look forward to supporting them to develop into strong, powerful women.