Theresa Delahunty is well known in her local community for her work in making sure inclusion and access to service is top of the agenda for immigrants living in our city and county.
Theresa and her husband Frank retired to Thomastown. She has volunteered in community organisations and services for the elderly. When an opportunity came in to work with Social Services on the Waterford Road she took it. The Direct Provision Centre had opened in 2000 and a dedicated service was needed and Dochas opened the support office and outreach service to the Direct Provision Centre. Sadly this service closed five and a half years ago.
This left a void for the immigrant community and Theresa recognised that there was a real need for support so she approached Stephen Murphy at the Father McGrath Centre and set up Immigrant Services in 2011 with Sister Regina, Sister Ann and Sister Margaret. The group secured funding from Kilkenny Leader Partnership and the services expanded to include a clinic every Monday for members of the immigrant community. The clinic offers help with information, assistance and support and with family reunification.
“We also help people with language and help them to learn how to use the systems that are in place and advocate for themselves when necessary,” added Theresa.
According to the 2011 cenus there are 8,000 people born outside Ireland living in Kilkenny. Theresa also set up Failte Isteach which has English classes for begineers, intermediate and advanced students every Wednesday. This year there was over 100 enrolments and 30 different nationalities assisted by 20 volunteers.
“It is a great way of socialisation and integration as well as empowering and enabling members of our communities,” added Theresa who stressed that the group works alongside many agencies. “It is all about offering outreach to the most vulnerable,” she added.