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INTERCULTURALISM

“I gained confidence; we all benefitted” - says 19-year-old organiser

Young people in Longford are putting it up to youth groups around the country to organise big multicultural events, REPORTS CONOR HOGAN.

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meka Iroaganachi, 19, is president of the Longford Multicultural Youth Group and he and his friends spent a year organising for one event in particular. It wasn’t easy because as Emeka points out, in many Asian and African counties, there is “almost too much respect for elders, and children aren’t listened to.” “When I originally joined the group,” he tells us, “I had little interest or motivation. Then last year, I visited Belgium and saw what youth groups there were able to do, the cooperation between different nationalities. It motivated me to go out and do something, get something off the ground.” Cultural Diversity Day was one of the biggest events they committed to organising. “From when we first started planning it until it took place, the whole process took about a year. It was hard to convince people and explain the benefits to them, but we managed to get sponsors such as Eircom on board and Longford County Council and Longford Community Resouces helped. “Other things, on the organisational end, that had to be sorted as the day approached, was getting the lighting correct and the setting of the sound system, and many other things.” The effort paid off, and the response to the event was as good as they could possibly have imagined. “It developed slowly, but by the end of the day, the place was packed out. People definitely benefitted from the interaction and gained a different understanding.  “Personally speaking, I gained a lot of selfconfidence from the experience. In many Asian and African counties, there is almost too much respect for elders, and children aren’t listened

to. Many of them are scared to stand up for themselves. “It is important that they are given confidence, something to look up to. The need to be given a voice, and for that to happen you have to go out and do things yourself,” he said. One of the obstacles for a group such as Emekas is keeping it up and running. “We need more funding.” he says, “A lot of the time we rely on our parents to keep the group going.” The group meets every Sunday at the Attic

Ingredients for a perfect intercultural day • • • •

Duration: 4 hours. Audience: 500+. Highlight: Art gallery. Music: 5 bands and a choir • MC: Peter Masterson • Weather: Very warm and sunny. • Organisers: Youth.

Youth Cafe in the Temporance Hall, Longford Town. E: ongfordmyg@gmail.com.

Is it multi- or interculturalism? Eight years ago, David Denby from the School of Applied Language & Interculturalism told ‘Changing Ireland’ there was a significant difference between the two terms “intercultural” and “multi-cultural.” “Multi-culturalism pins labels on groups and cements existing blocks and therefore becomes a charter for apartheid. Inter-culturalism is about groups entering into dialogue, communication, interchange and exchange (and) helps to bridge the gap between different moral norms and viewpoints.” However, Dr. Ronit Lentin disagreed: “I think there is no difference between multiand inter-culturalism because both terms are imposed from above.” Your thoughts?!

Fresh start for Longford L

ongford’s youth groups have also made waves nationally, with one taking the top prize at the Foróige Youth Citizenship Awards in November. The Attic Youth Café established in Longford town in 2006 won thanks to their introduction of an unique student discount card. The awards show was presented as ‘Ireland’s Top Teens’ on TV3. It was the second time in three years that the Attic Youth Café won a national award; the previous one was for promoting active citizenship.

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