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Síol Newsletter – Winter 2019 

Gerry Bennett, Chief Executive, ERST, Opening Welcome, Síol Newsletter – Summer 2019

Celebrating the joy, energy and power of young voices

All around the world, we are seeing the impact that young people are having on the important issues of our time.  Together, you are calling out the failures of many previous generations in a new, bold and energetic way – particularly on issues like climate action and climate justice.  

At Edmund Rice Schools Trust, we celebrate and have great faith in this new youth movement of citizen awareness, advocacy and activism.  It is something that is core to our Edmund Rice Charter.  The role of our schools is to nurture your full potential, as healthy and happy students who are ready and supported to learn, but also as active citizens who are part of a wider community and a wider world.

As a network of schools you have already shown how you can rally together to try to bring about change for people who find themselves without fundamental rights and dignities.  We saw the campaign on homelessness, initiated by Ardscoil na Mara students in Tramore and then strengthened by the collaboration of schools throughout the network. 

You don’t have to collect signatures, paint placards or take to the street to be an activist.  We also know that throughout the country, many of you are helping to improve the lives of older people, people in hospital, or people with disabilities, for example – quietly and unassuming -  by just visiting them, telling a few stories and jokes, singing, taking the time to listen, and by giving people the gift of your youth and your friendship.  Very often, it’s the little, quiet things that make the biggest difference to people.

But then, sometimes, you also have to speak out loudly on things.  We are proud to say that we are the first network of schools to take on one of the burning issues of our time – the indignity and unfairness of the current system of direct provision. 

And the impetus to speak out about this issue came from you – our students.

Over the past two years, those of you who have attended our Walk in Your Shoes Advocacy events have heard from our students who are living in direct provision.  You listened to the stories of danger and trauma that many had to go through just to get to Ireland in the first place.  They have witnessed death, destruction, torture, family separation.  Then, when they arrived in Ireland, they found themselves living in crowded direct provision centres with their families, or alone, without privacy, without room to study, without money and too often, without a sense that their futures are going to be any different or easier.

In 2020, armed with our network wide position paper, we are going to focus on direct provision again.  We are asking that the direct provision system is reviewed so that people do not have to stay within in for longer than six months.  In total, we have outlined 10 things that we want to advocate on for change.

We can only do that successfully if we all work together – as a network of 96 schools and as a cacophony of nearly 40,000 young voices.  We have recently sent the position paper to your schools with a suggestion that it is something you might work on within your classes, or your peace and justice groups.

This issue goes to the very heart of the Edmund Rice ethos that asks us to stand in solidarity with those who are marginalised and voiceless, and that asks us to be advocates for justice and rights.  We look forward to working with you all.

Gerry Bennett,
Chief Executive
Edmund Rice Schools

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