A SYRIAN family who moved to Kinsale at the end of last year has publicly thanked the community for saving them from certain death.
Omar Alhajjar and his family’s move to the town was made possible by The Road to Kinsale, a community sponsorship project which was set up last year to help those displaced from the Syrian civil war.
The aim of the government-led programme, executed by a local voluntary team, is to ensure that the family becomes integrated into the community.
The family of five who had been living in a refugee camp in Lebanon, arrived in Kinsale at the end of December after members of The Road to Kinsale met them at Dublin Airport.
Omar Alhajjar’s heartfelt message was this: ‘On behalf of my family, I want to express my thanks to Ireland and its people. They saved my family from certain death. They saved us from cruel and inhuman conditions, war, killing and destruction.
‘After we lost hope in life we came to this wonderful country and received treatment that we cannot even dream about.
‘We live in Kinsale with wonderful people and we have a wonderful group that restored hope in life and deserve our thanks, our gratitude for what they do and do with us.
‘In the name of my family, I thank everyone who helped us and stood with us.’
Now that the country is opening up again after lockdown the family is getting an opportunity to settle in and meet more people around the area of Kinsale.
A spokesperson for Road to Kinsale said: ‘As an experience it’s been great for both the community and the family themselves and it’s a testament to the fact that the community sponsorship scheme works and this can be and should be replicated all over the country.
‘At a time where there are plans to end the direct provision system, this is a workable solution and there are other groups across both the county and country preparing similar schemes as well.’
The group said the whole experience had gone better than they could ever have imagined.
‘Omar and his family had some English on arrival but it has improved considerably since and they were getting English lessons remotely during the lockdown.’
She said that as a community they got a lot more out of it than they expected.
‘It brought the community close together and anytime we looked for support or anything we were overwhelmed with the response. Even during lockdown, places like the Blue Haven Hotel and St Francis Provisions donated meals to the family.’
The key to the success of this project was that it was a grassroots movement and they made sure they communicated will all the community there.
‘Because everyone felt part of it and contributed to it, everyone was supportive of it.’
She said the family members are embracing community life in the town and are looking forward to the summer in Kinsale.