`Sanctuary in Nature’ is a new project initiated in 2017 by Cities of Sanctuary Dublin member; environmental author and guide Paddy Woodworth. It seeks to use the natural world as a meeting point for migrants and Irish people, and a refuge for sanctuary seekers from the stress and tedium often inherent in their predicament. There is compelling evidence worldwide that direct contact with nature is vital for physical and mental health.
This project offers migrants opportunities to enjoy and learn about Irish wildlife, wildflowers and landscapes. We see the project as an exchange between equals and an opportunity for migrants to inform Irish people about nature in their home countries. An important by-product is the informal socialisation between individuals and small groups in a relaxed context in beautiful natural settings.
Five outings during 2017/18 have attracted participating adults and children from Syria, Albania, Uganda, South Africa and Mongolia. Let by Paddy Woodworth, we have visited the gardens and riverside/wetland walks in Sonairte, and explored the rich plant and animal life in the woodlands and beaches adjacent to the Mosney Centre. Woodworth pointed out common trees, plants, birds, and marine life. Over coffee, participants then revisited what we have seen in books, and learnt about fauna and flora from the migrants’ countries.
Sanctuary in Nature can be a project that benefit everyone involved.
For migrants, they get an opportunity to acquire a basic knowledge of common trees, plants, birds and landscapes of the east coast, enhancing and enriching their daily experience and enjoyment of their everyday environment. They are also encouraged to express their pride and pleasure in the natural beauties of their home places.; improving their sense of community with Irish people; health and well-being benefits.
For non-migrant participants, they appreciate the pleasures of sharing our own local places with migrants, and gaining an opportunity to get to know our neighbours and make a contribution and a difference to the lives of people in distressing situations.
Local centres, such as Sonairte National Ecology Centre and Rogerstown Estuary become focal points for local communities and their neighbours to meet regularly in a friendly and neutral social setting. We would particularly like to thank our partners in Sonairte for their hospitality, and invaluable assistance in securing a grant that Meath Co Council kindly agreed to for our last outing, and our partners in the Fingal Branch of Birdwatch Ireland, who gave us such a warm and informative welcome at Rogerstown Estuary.