My name is Pamela Chiriseri, originally from Zimbabwe and have lived in Ireland for the past 7 years. I am a community development worker, having experience of working with communities for over 10 years. I am currently in the final year of my BA in Development studies with Kimmage Development Study Centre, a very intensive study of development at international level. I am the founder and current volunteer coordinator of Women of Multi-culture Balbriggan (WOMB), a very active community based support organisation which strives for the improvement of women’s social inclusion and mental health.
My work with communities in Ireland dates back to the year I migrated from my country of origin, 2001, when I realised the need within people, immigrant women in particular, with whom I shared similar experiences ranging from isolation, discrimination, low self esteem, confusion and loneliness in a foreign country to mention a few. My first involvement in community development was through AkiDwa, (African women’s network) which was at the forming stage and required volunteers to assist with the establishment of the Organisation, which has since grown into the most recognised immigrant women led organisation in Ireland empowers immigrant women living in Ireland irrespective of social status, ethnic or religious background. At that stage I voluntarily travelled nationwide, coordinating and facilitating empowering activities with existing groups and mobilising the establishment of new women’s groups. Some of the areas I worked with women up to 2005 as volunteer for AkiDwA are Cork, Galway, Ennis, Drogheda, Dundalk, Dublin, Longford and Limerick.
In 2006, I realised that there were no support structures available in Balbriggan, which became my home from then and I therefore linked up with local women and service providers to coordinate the formation of Women of Multi-culture Balbriggan (WOMB) (soon to change name to Women of Multi-Cultural Background because our membership has stretched beyond Balbriggan community). WOMB has celebrated its 2nd birthday this year and has been a platform for restoration of lost hopes, encouragement and support in lives of all women living in Balbriggan and surrounding communities (Skerries, Lusk, Rush, Swords,). WOMB is the only group in Balbriggan and surrounding communities, that brings together women from all over the world to work together with indigenous Irish women in order to break the barrier of racism and discrimination. WOMB has played a major role towards integration of Balbriggan, being the most ethnic minority populated town in Ireland. (According to the 2007 census figures)
I feel privileged to be selected as one of EWI scholars in 2008/9 as this is an opportunity to raise our group’s profile, considering that we are a young and enthusiastic community organisation that has been doing tremendous work in our communities but without much support in resources. I therefore would like to express our heartfelt appreciation to UCD, EWI and Combat Poverty for a much worthy opportunity to work our own way towards a resolution to issues concerning us through research.