A workshop in Limerick, Tuesday, heard that bias among people in communities within Limerick can be removed only when people are brought together to make contacts after they have met with certain conditions.
The statement was made by project managers of the peace-building charity group, Cooperation Ireland, Dr. Alan Largey and Barry Fennell, at Mary Immaculate College, Limerick.
The workshop was organised by Global Peace Foundation (GPF) Ireland, and in collaboration with the Limerick City and County Council.
The event that taught community representatives integration techniques for a brighter future, held as part of this year’s Limerick Lifelong Learning Festival (LLLF), which took place from the 16th to the 22nd of April.
Dr. Alan Largey introduced participants to the “Manage Contact Theory”, which asserts that, certain conditions such as equal status, common goals, intergroup cooperation and personal interaction will remove most forms of bias when people are brought together to make contacts.
He said: “We devised the model during the Family and Community Engagement (FACE) project over a period of three years in Northern Ireland; we evaluated and proved it to our own satisfaction, and in some ways a little bit scientific, and we found that this model really works.
“We are in Limerick today to show community representatives exactly what we did, and how it can be used to effectively bring communities together, who otherwise will normally not meet, can’t meet and don’t even want to meet.”
The facilitators introduced interactive contact techniques to participants, such as non-verbal communication as a medium to introduce one another, and group exercises as a way to understand the meaning of contact.
This methodology enabled participants to engage and interact with one another within a few minutes of the opening of the workshop.
The training witnessed 30 members from different communities within Limerick, namely, Irish, Polish, Ghanaians, Kenyans, Northern Irish, Somalians, Congolese, Togolese, etc. who all agreed that the technique was effective in building their relationships with other participants at the workshop.
Tutor at Limerick Further Education Training Campus, Roseanne Dunne, attended the workshop along with students from the institution.
Ms. Dunne said the training was an “eye-opener”: “I brought nine students from different countries, including asylum seekers, refugees and other migrants from Congo, Sudan, Ghana and Poland with the objective to help them to expand their vocabulary, meet new people, engage with other cultures and learn more about the city they have chosen to live in.
One of the students, Peter Mathews, who is originally from Ghana and has been living in Ireland for nearly 10 years, said: “I have been living here for nine years and continue to face challenges, especially with finding a job, but things are getting better, and today’s workshop has enlightened me on techniques that I have not heard of before.”
Project Manager of Co-operation Ireland and facilitator, Barry Fennell, said he was very pleased with the workshop.
“We had a very willing group who wanted to be here; they wanted to learn; they took part; they were very active in the exercises we demonstrated; they were also very vocal in the group discussions and were very engaged in our experiences,” he added.
Country Director of GPF Ireland, Dr. Arnold Kashembe said he hoped participants had learned techniques on how to break boundaries among communities in Limerick and that, he believed the workshop opened up different communities to one another.
The Learning Limerick Steering Committee, which is promoting learning across Limerick as the theme of this year’s Limerick Lifelong Learning Festival, awarded each participant with a Learning Oscars for completing a training in integration.
The workshop by GPF is one of many initiatives in Ireland that they are employing to share common resources and experiences on how to break boundaries and build a more inclusive society – crossing over the wire to bridge gaps.