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25 May 2022

Kilkenny convent 'miracle' makeover will be huge boost to arriving Ukrainians

Kilkenny convent 'miracle' makeover will be huge boost to arriving Ukrainians

An immense local effort to bring an underutilised convent in Kilkenny City back into use as accommodation for Ukrainian refugees has given the building, and its new inhabitants, a new lease of life.

The scale of the turnaround on the Saint John of God Convent, housing thirty nine bedrooms as well as vast communal spaces, couldn’t have been achieved without so many people and organisations pulling together and rallying to the cause.

Key to the entire process was Katherine Peacock of Kilkenny Civil Defence who managed the logistics alongside Assistant Civil Defence Manager Michelle Colclough.

“Over the course of the week we pulled off the impossible. We created a beautiful home from scratch for 100 of our Ukrainian guests with the help of our community and friends. With hard work and determination anything is possible,” she said.

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“First and foremost I’d like to extend deep gratitude to the Congregation of the Sisters of St. John of God. The sisters were so warm and positive about the idea and the process from the start and throughout,” Katherine said.

“Also key to even getting the project off the ground was Kilkenny County Council and the leadership provided by Mary Mulholland,” she added.

Before going any further I’d like to also thank the men and women of 1st Kilkenny Scouts and Irish Girl Guides especially Brendan, Jimmy, Annie, Margaret, Luke and Dylan.

“Huge thanks also to the soldiers from James Stephens Barracks that literally moved mountains!

“Thanks to Mary O Hanlon and the Age Friendly Ireland Kilkenny branch, the Irish Farmers' Association Kilkenny, all the GAA clubs all around Kilkenny, Marion Acreman and MacDonagh Junction Shopping Centre, Dunnes Stores, Lesley Cleere and all the staff in Market Cross Shopping Centre, Penneys Kilkenny, Dealz and SuperValu Market Cross.

“Further thanks goes to Healthy Kilkenny coordinator Janette Boran, An Garda Síochána, all the maintenance crews, carpenters, plumbers, electricians, cleaners and caretakers that lent a hand to the cause.

“Most of all thank you to the amazing volunteers of Kilkenny Civil Defence who worked around the clock to help make this happen and go above and beyond every time.”

“You wouldn’t see an effort like this anywhere else in the country and it speaks volumes of the generosity and warmth of the people of Kilkenny,” Katherine continued.

“The Saint John of God sisters have been beaming with smiles since the day the project started. They are so delighted to welcome the new Ukrainian guests who they are referring to as their new family. It’s heartwarming to see.

“It’s important to note that, even from my experience speaking to them, that these arrivals are a proud people and hard workers. They are keen to get job-hunting and are not asking for charity.

“We are doing our duty to assist people fleeing war by giving them a steady base that they can use as a springboard to support themselves and further integrate into society for the duration of their stay.”

Mayor Andrew McGuinness and renowned singer David Keenan were at hand over Easter to play some music and give the new guests a very Kilkenny welcome.

It is important now, Katherine emphasises, ‘to allow our guests to settle into their new home and enjoy the welcome that awaits them in Kilkenny’.

In the meantime, work continues in making preparations for any further people that arrive.

This latest effort to convert a large underused building in Kilkenny into use for Ukrainians arriving follows similar localised efforts in Paulstown and Dunnamaggin renovating parochial houses.

The community spirit being shown truly extends countywide and, as Katherine Peacock of Civil Defence explains: “We are ever ready for the next project. When duty calls, we want to be there to answer.”

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