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First Champion School of Sanctuary in Co. Laois

Already the county with the first ever award of a Library of Sanctuary, Co. Laois now has its first Champion School of Sanctuary-  Dunamase College in Portlaoise. 🎉🙌🥳🎈


A Schools of Sanctuary Ireland monitoring team visited the school on Wednesday December 13th, a team comprising Andy Pollak (Places of Sanctuary Ireland board member), Homayoon Shirzad (SoSI staff), Suzanne Carroll, (Senior Executive Librarian, Laois County Library), Radwan Abouhajar, Anne Marie Kirrane (Offaly Co Co) and Champion SoS teachers Sarah Corcoran (Mercy Secondary School Kilbeggan) and Linda McCormack (Kilkenny City Vocational School)


Among the school’s 548 students, 20 nationalities and 21 different languages are represented. The Sanctuary initiative has been run by three different school committees who had recently come together to form one group called ‘Le Chéile‘. The school’s ‘Welcome Wall’ which features the flags, languages and religions of all the students as well as posters highlighting the school’s values of equality, respect, care and community add strength to the visibility of the Sanctuary message in the school.

Deputy Principal, Ms. Clare Fitzgerald and the Sanctuary lead teacher in the school, Ms. Siobhán Holland, supported the students in the telling of the school’s journey to become a Champion School of Sanctuary. The presentation of the school’s wonderful Sanctuary portfolio spotlighted some key actions in the school’s calendar that have built the whole-school embracing of the Sanctuary ethos- Inclusion and Diversity Week (featuring Inclusion Day, Friendship Day, Stand Up Day and Anti-Bullying Day), Ethos Awareness Day and Culture Day. Dunamase College students also participated in a befriending programme with local Syrian families.  In 2025, 12 students and two teachers will be travelling to Kolkata to volunteer in schools and hospitals.

A now 6th year student, Henry Ncube, was a winner earlier in the year of the ‘My ETB’ Creative Multimedia Learner Competition, the only student from Laois Offaly ETB to be shortlisted. Henry’s beautiful poem, “Our Little Community”, was presented on the monitoring day- here is that poem, which says so much about the spirit of community and sanctuary in this wonderful school!