Project Hope seeks to transform the health of migrants in Ireland through faith communities.
Extensive barriers to good health exist for migrants, including:
- cultural differences
- poor awareness of existing structures
- poor engagement by health services with the diversity of existing community supports for migrants.
As a result migrants suffer poor outcomes in a range of health areas such as mental health, sexual health, HIV, cardiovascular disease and infectious diseases. This disempowers them in integrating with wider society, and creates a massive cost to the Irish health service.
Our project seeks to overcome these barriers and improve health outcomes by engaging with an oft ignored sector of migrant life – the faith-based community.
Our approach involves innovative top-down training of community leaders that delivers a sustainable impact throughout the community, alongside bottom-up support of those most marginalised through stigmatisation.
The journey of Project Hope:
In 2009 we received funding from Irish Aid (Dept. of Foreign Affairs) to pilot a project training migrant-led church leaders on HIV. This involved extensive networking, the creation of focus groups, some brief workshops on HIV and the production of a report.
Following this we rolled out workshops outside Dublin to leaders of these churches, as well as migrant-leaders of multi-national churches. The focus of these workshops was largely on challenging HIV-related stigma in the churches. In total we trained over 200 leaders and indirectly impacted several thousand congregants.
Albert Einstein College of Medicine, New York
We succeeded in identifying a range of broader health and social challenges that were linked to HIV-related stigma. We were unsure of how to overcome these challenges but with the assistance of Prof. Adebola Adedimeji of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, New York, moved to an ecological model of health promotion that addressed all health issues, including mental health.
We have since developed a model of training leaders to address health throughout their community structures and activities, emphasising the value of vulnerability as we explore the various social, cultural and theological challenges.
We have also trained Irish health professionals in how to engage with individuals and the corporate faith community. This has taken place in a number of venues including the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland and with the staff of Ireland’s largest infectious diseases clinic.
Care within the Communities
Parallel to the above process we have also, over the past eight years, provided practical and emotional care to women living with HIV who are part of — yet have been stigmatised within — these faith communities. Knowing that transforming a community takes time, the support to these women allows them to build relationships of trust that improve mental health while remaining part of their faith communities.
Parenting Course for 2016
In 2016 we have launched a Parenting Course. Part of Project Hope. it is accredited to the Open College Network (NI) at Level 2.