‘Glencree Welcomes Refugees’ project collaboration with Mother Tongues


5/3/2024: In 2023, the Glencree Welcomes Refugees Project collaborated with social enterprise Mother Tongues to engage refugee families in a new ‘Clondalkin Language Explorers’ pilot project. The collaboration centered on a series of 7 workshops during which Glencree introduced young children (aged 3 to 6) and their parents to wellness and self-care practices within the framework of an artistic plurilingual programme. Mother Tongues received an International Protection Integration Fund (IPIF) grant from the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth (DCEDIY) to cover most of the work and Glencree funded the remaining costs from grants received from the Oblates of Mary Immaculate and the Community Foundation of Ireland (CFI).

Language Explorers is an award-winning outreach programme designed by Mother Tongues to offer a creative, multilingual space for young children and families to develop language and literacy through play and artistic activities. The aims of the programme are to enhance resilience, inclusion and overall well-being in children and their parents. Through workshops, participants engage in a creative process that has been carefully designed to promote language and communication skills and develop self-expression, through a culturally sensitive approach.

With the ongoing work of the broader Glencree Intercultural and Refugee programme with refugees and people seeking international protection in Ireland, and in particular the more recent well-being focused work of the Glencree Welcomes Refugees project, Mother Tongues invited Glencree to facilitate self-care movement practices in the workshops which would enhance both the well-being and trauma-healing aspects of the work.

Having first developed a partnership with Clondalkin Intercultural Centre as the venue for the workshops, the Glencree team invited families involved in their programme work from Clondalkin Towers Direct Provision Centre to participate. The mother tongue languages of the participating families included Arabic, Latin American Spanish, Somali and Yoruba. During the workshops, Glencree’s Trauma and Wellness Consultant, Patty Abozaglo, and Early Years Consultant, Marian Baker, delivered wellness and trauma-healing exercises based on Capacitar practices. They also incorporated arts-based approaches, working closely with artist Fernanda Ferrari who had prior experience in the Language Explorers methodology.

The Mother Tongues workshops created a sense of validation for the parents and children’s linguistic and cultural identities. In the evaluation session, parents spoke of a rise in confidence and self-expression. Among the benefits they experienced was a general improvement in their families’ emotional well-being, a positive effect on the relationships within families, elevated levels of socialisation, and relaxation.

Commenting on the Glencree and Mother Tongues collaboration, Nadette Foley, Glencree Intercultural and Refugee Programme Manager said: “I came to the first workshop and it was an absolutely magical experience. It was also inspiring to work with Fernanda and Mother Tongues. The way they organised the workshops, which meant that everybody had time to 'land' and immerse themselves, down to the choice of art materials which participants don't have access to in their everyday lives yet which opened a pathway for them to express themselves. It was also the first time I have seen Capacitar introduced to children and their receptiveness and participation was so beneficial to them. It was also informative to myself and the team as practitioners in terms of how we can apply this practice for children going forward."

Speaking on the effectiveness of Capacitar in the Language Explorers workshops, Fernanda Ferrari said: “Capacitar was a really amazing experience because it's also how to share something that is really important in a way that people don’t feel that we are trying to help them because they need us. I’m always thinking how we can be here in a really nice way . . . we are not trying to help anyone we are [listening] and incorporating their presence in the space and want to hear their story without asking them too much."

Key insights from stakeholders involved in the Mother Tongues Language Explorers programme are now available to view. This includes commentary from Glencree Intercultural and Refugee Programme Manager Nadette Foley, Glencree Welcomes Refugees Trauma & Wellness Consultant Patty Abozaglo, artist-facilitator Fernanda Ferrari, and Early Years and Wellness Consultant Marian Baker. Click here to view video. Please note: you will be redirected to the Mother Tongues YouTube channel


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