Ethnic minority communities are benefitting from grants from the Big Lottery Fund.

Including Diversity C.I.C are among seven groups based in the Lisburn area sharing in a total of £65,188 from Awards for All. It is part of a Big Lottery Fund grants windfall of £769,369 to 91 groups across Northern Ireland (see  full list of awards).

Including Diversity C.I.C., based in Lisburn provides bilingual advocacy training and services to ethnic minority communities in Northern Ireland. They received £10,000 for their Bilingual Advocacy and Mediation in Health Programme which is helping set up 20 bilingual advocacy clinics to help ethnic minority communities access public services and build connections in local communities.

The project is placing 30 bilingual advocates in the clinics across Northern Ireland – to help bridge the gaps in understanding that go beyond language. The service will be available in Belfast, Armagh, Craigavon, Dungannon, Coleraine, Ballymena, Antrim, Newry and Lisburn, as well as any other location required across the five main Health and Social Care Trust areas.

Salma Hossain, originally from Somalia, is one of the trained bilingual advocates who will be able to deliver the Awards for All funded service.

“My life in Somalia was good as I was the youngest of a big middle-class family, but we left in 1991 when I was 14, just after the civil war started,” said Salma.

“When I came to Northern Ireland my first impression was very good, that it was a nice friendly quiet place, good for raising families, but I didn’t know anyone and I couldn’t speak the language. I started learning English in 2004 through English as a Second Language courses. Then I came into contact with Including Diversity through Horn of Africa People’s Aid NI and I wanted to get involved. The Bilingual Advocacy OCN accreditation I earned gave me more knowledge so I’m more able to actively help our community beyond the language barrier.”

Salma recently helped a Somalian woman who is pregnant with her fourth child and lives in a very small apartment with no lift. Due to misunderstanding and miscommunication, she was not able to get a home suitable for her family. But due to Salma’s advocacy, the woman got more help and moved into better accommodation.

“Through this work, I can see clearly how I can empower people from my community with information and skills, by acting in their interest and encouraging them to develop their future independence. Our community needs this project desperately as they do not have any access to real support when it comes to complex cultural and health issues,” she said.

Including Diversity CIC is currently a test-trader in the Social Enterprise Hub in Lisburn, and operations and training are based there. The Bilingual Advocacy project officially launched last week. Project Manager Ligia Parizzi said she is delighted the project is helping ethnic minority communities get the support they need.

“Language is a difficult enough barrier to overcome,” she said, “but when a person from an ethnic minority group has learning or physical disabilities, a mental health condition or other illness, it is even harder for them to get proper health and social care.

“Our programme is pioneering in implementing the service in a regional, systematic and professionally regulated way in Northern Ireland,” said Ligia. “We have now fully trained 30 professional accredited bilingual advocates in health with a wealth of experience and knowledge to support our community. This service is making a real difference to people most in need of support.”

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