Monday 21 August 2017

A 'life-changing moment' as sanctuary scholarship offers refugees new hope

Donnah Vuma, (31), from Zimbabwe, and living in direct provision. Ms Vuma is one of 17 asylum seekers being awarded a third-level scholarship at University of Limerick.
Donnah Vuma, (31), from Zimbabwe, and living in direct provision. Ms Vuma is one of 17 asylum seekers being awarded a third-level scholarship at University of Limerick.

David Raleigh

A mother-of-three living in direct provision, described winning a University of Limerick scholarship as a "life-changing moment", as she pursues her dream of a career in psychology.

Donnah Vuma (31) is one of 17 people accepted on to the Place of Sanctuary scholarship programme at UL. The programme will start in September for the academic year 2017/2018, and will include a course fee waiver, and subsistence towards travel, printing and IT requirements.

Ms Vuma, along with her three young children, fled the corrupt political regime in Zimbabwe three years ago, where she had worked as a sales and marketing manager.

She described coming to Ireland "hoping for a better future", but found herself locked "in limbo", as she is not allowed to work under the rules.

"The biggest effect is psychological, depression and mental health," she explained.

"The amount of time spent in direct provision centres is ridiculous. It's draining, mentally, physically, emotionally, spiritually. I'd like to see it come to an end."

To break the boredom she engages in voluntary work and returns to the centre after her children, aged 12, nine and seven, finish their school day.

"They go to local schools and for them it's a sanctuary and a haven away from the centre. At school they are just like everyone else; no one can pinpoint that they are from a direct provision centre living under these conditions."

Ms Vuma said because she was not allowed work, and given €19.10 a week by the State, her children were learning "that being dependent (on the State) is a normal thing".

"I think this is one of the worst lessons you can ever teach your children."

Ms Vuma is "excited" at the prospect of being able to pursue her dream of a career in psychology.

Dr Mairead Moriarty, chair of the University of Limerick's Sanctuary steering committee, said the scholarship students would be studying a wide range of courses including business, humanities, law and politics.

"They are from a range of countries, including Syria, Zimbabwe, Iran, Iraq, Libya. Most have been in direct provision for up to four years," she said.

Dublin City University also announced last year it was to offer sanctuary scholarships.

Irish Independent

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