Fáilte Isteach provides conversational English classes in the community for new migrants to Ireland. Local older people volunteer their time to provide the classes for free, providing a great service and helping to break down social barriers.
In 2007 Mary Nally approached Social Entrepreneurs Ireland with a simple idea for social change. Mary and The Third Age Foundation, the organisation of which she is founder and chairperson, set up Fáilte Isteach, an initiative whereby older volunteers welcomed migrants to the community through conversational English classes. This initiative had already been running very successfully in Summerhill, Co. Meath for over a year when Mary approached Social Entrepreneurs Ireland.
The idea came to Mary when she was in her local supermarket in 2006 and noticed a mother who was completely dependent on her children to translate English for her. Following further research, Mary discovered that an increasing number of migrants in the locality were experiencing difficulties in their social and working lives due to limited or non-existent English. Free, local, accessible classes for new migrants were non-existent.
As a solution to this problem, Mary set up conversational English classes in the community where local older people volunteered their time to provide the classes for free. This approach utilised the expertise of older volunteers and harnessed their desire to contribute positively to society. The initial classes were a huge success, and Mary realised the potential of the idea to scale and grow.
The lessons used by Fáilte Isteach deal with real life, everyday situations which we take for granted, such as visiting the doctor, shopping and work related scenarios.
The most significant impact of the Fáilte Isteach programme is the improved level of integration that it has helped bring about for the newcomers who now have friends and contacts to which they can turn in times of difficulty or stress. They are made to feel part of the community and feel welcomed and understood.
Social Entrepreneurs Ireland provided Mary with the financial and technical support needed to help her move Fáilte Isteach from an idea in a small rural village to a national movement. The project was launched nationally in September 2008 and the second branch was opened in January 2009 in Dunshaughlin.
Today there are over 50 Fáilte Isteach projects throughout the country. Every week over 1,600 families are positively impacted by the project, with over 500 volunteers offering over a thousand hours of tuition each week to students from over 70 countries. Failte isteach has been listed on the EU Website for Integration as best practice in its field and as a project that is adaptable to any EU country.
My belief is that if there is a very real need for this service in a small rural village then there must be a need for this project in other towns and villages throughout Ireland.
Failte steach Class Summerhill
Failte Isteach Class Castlebar