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North Co. Dublin’s FIRST Champion School of Sanctuary 🥳🙌

There is a bright-burning symbol of inclusion in North County Dublin and its name is Donabate Community College! The school was awarded with its Champion School of Sanctuary status on November 22nd 2023, on the occasion of a visit by a monitoring team from Schools of Sanctuary Ireland.

Inspired and led by teacher Josephine Nyamuranga, the school’s ‘Sanctuary Club’ boasts a large membership of students from all years. It was the Sanctuary Club members themselves that independently showcased the inclusive heart of the school for the monitoring visit, with a tour of that revealed the sanctuary message in every corridor of the building and with presentations of fantastic learning, action and sharing that has been part of Donabate Community College’s Sanctuary journey.

The monitoring team were treated to musical performances and got to sample a wonderful array of food from lots of different countries in a multicultural event organised for the day. As well as stewarding the monitoring visit, Ms. Nyamuranga had even cooked something special for the food event!

The visibility of the Sanctuary message is everywhere in Donabate Community College, not least in a very special piece of artwork by a 3rd student, Medina, who is originally from Bosnia. She won a competition, organised by the Sanctuary club members, that illustrates the sanctuary message.

Speaking about her artwork, Medina said:

“This is a poster of equality and acceptance so I hope everyone who passes by my poster feels welcome. I’m Bosnian. I moved to Donabate 5 years ago and after 3 years here, I joined this school.  A friend recommended the Sanctuary club to me so I joined. It’s the first club I have felt comfortable and happy in. I hope everyone here knows they are accepted. This school has taught me so much- kindness, compassion, helping others and others helping you”

‘The Hub’ is a stunning room that supports students with additional needs; there are positive messages about identity and empathy everywhere, information about different religions, anti-bullying messages and constant reminders, through symbols, flags and languages, that the school is representative of a wide range of families, backgrounds and communities.

The school enjoyed had a special visit from an ex student, Elizabeth Zion who has come back to visit the school on more than one occasion to speak to students.

Elizabeth spoke about the trauma of seeking asylum here with her mother and all of the barriers and practical challenges that she faced. Her stories of the incredible support and nurture she received from trusted teachers in the school (2015-2020) while she struggled with her traumas and barriers was a heartfelt testimony to how long Donabate Community College has held the idea of sanctuary so dear, far longer than their ‘official’ Sanctuary journey. It was truly heartwarming to see how much love Elizabeth still has for the school and so many of the teachers there. She is an inspirational young woman and is huge demand as a speaker while also studying Politics, International Relations and Social Justice in UCD. Donabate Community College are clearly so proud of her!

Words from the SoSI Monitoring team members:

Shepherd Machaya, a Sanctuary Ambassador

“In my honest opinion, Donabate Community College has set the bar high. It might have been my first tour as a School of Sanctuary ambassador, but what I witnessed was a genuine practice of inclusiveness. Everything was done from the heart. They deserve the stars”