GAA Football

East Belfast GAC lead the way in bringing cultures together

Different cultures will be celebrated at tomorrow's East Belfast Together event

EAST Belfast GAC are celebrating the end of a brilliant year of integration and diversity by holding an ‘East Belfast Together’ event at Our Lady & St Patrick Knock tomorrow (2-4pm).

Born in the middle of the global pandemic, the go-head GAA club has earned many positive headlines for its cross-community ethos – but none more so than for encouraging refugee families to join the club through a series of hugely successful scholarships in the summer.

The brainchild of Ciara Boarke, the East Belfast member was moved by the desperate images of migrant tragedies in recent times and with the help of Home Plus Charity on University Street, Belfast the club threw its doors open to several Sudanese, Nigerian and newly arrived Syrian families.

“Obviously the recent migrant tragedy [where 27 people perished off the coast of Calais] and the fact that people have to make these journeys and are often not even made welcome, had a big impact. It would break your heart,” said Ciara, whose children joined East Belfast's new underage teams.

“Home Plus Charity put us in touch with some families and they came to the summer camp and had an absolute ball. They were bringing food each day and it was just a really good experience for everyone and they loved it so much they came back the following Saturday and they’ve never left.”

Ciara added: “We also had an Arabic translator for newly arrived Syrian families, but when kids are kicking football about they don’t need to speak the same language. The most basic way of communicating is through playing.

“We had a bus pick them up every Saturday morning and you started to see conversations happening, it’s just happening in front of your eyes that they are integrating.”

Tomorrow’s event, funded by the British Red Cross, is open to everyone where there will be a chance to try out Gaelic Games, sample traditional Arabic food, enjoy traditional Polish arts and crafts and Arabic calligraphy.

There will be Irish traditional music, Highland bagpipers and drummers, ‘Turas’ will also have a tent showcasing their work, while Santa is expected to make an appearance.

“The fact that our kids are getting to make friends with Syrian kids is amazing,” said Ciara.

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