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Let’s Help Direct Provision – A Student Founded Initiative Helping Those Who are Often Forgotten About

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at DCU chapter.

The founder of a group assisting those in direct provision during the pandemic talks about her project and what future it holds.

The first Covid-19 lockdown saw a building crescendo of panic buying, with hand sanitiser and hygiene products topping shopping lists nationwide. However, the limited resources available to those in direct provision in comparison to the rest of the population caught Louisamay Hanrahan’s attention quickly. 

Louisamay, who is a human health and diseases graduate from Trinity, was aware of the additional risks infectious diseases can pose to marginalised communities.  She founded Let’s Help Direct Provision, an initiative which provides direct provision centres across Ireland with much needed hygiene, food and clothing supplies to address those concerns. 

The group evolved through an Instagram page she set up entitled Coronavirus Volunteers Dublin. 

Its initial goal was to provide assistance to those hospitalised due to Covid-19, but urgent appeals for assistance from direct provision residents resulted in a change of focus by mid-March. 

“There’s so many different problems in direct provision that I thought, this is something we can do for them now, a way to let them know that the people in Ireland haven’t forgotten about them,” Louisamay explains. 

The lack of social distancing measures in direct provision centres is glaring. A recent report by the Irish Refugee Council (IRC) found that over half of inhabitants felt unsafe during the pandemic, with over 40 per cent having to share a bedroom with a non -family member.

Louisamay hopes that the donations provided by her organisation give people a sense of dignity amidst the understandable frustration and anxiety. 

She had just gotten exciting news on an upcoming donation prior to our Zoom meeting: the allocation of ten brand new laptops to direct provision centres. 

“You can really see the difference they make in giving someone access to a job. We’re talking through our screens right now and I think most of my work is done via laptop. Giving someone a laptop is really giving them access to a career.” 

What role will the organisation have in a post pandemic world? Louisamay is optimistic, believing that Let’s Help Direct Provision can thrive as an awareness raising platform shedding light on the reality of life in direct provision. 

She believes some signs of progress are already becoming evident due to more public attention on the issue. Minister for Education Simon Harris visited one of the centres that she assists before he relaxed requirements on accessing education while in direct provision, which for her was “a really nice change to see.” 

Donations vs Health Advice  

The drive for donations has gone up a gear as Christmas approaches, with Louisamay primarily holding online fundraisers for the duration of lockdown. She currently uses a school to organise donation drop offs, as they have adequate safety measures in place. 

The safety of her rising number of volunteers is paramount, evident from the decision made on whether physical drop off stations would go ahead as planned in some of Dublin’s universities. 

“Trinity are doing an online fundraiser. We were supposed to have UCD as well but it had to be cancelled as theirs was a physical collection point,” she tells me. 

There is clearly a balancing act in place between adhering to public health guidelines and ensuring that the people she helps remain supported. 

The approaching arrival of Christmas means a commitment to delivering presents, for the children in direct provision in particular, who make up 30 per cent of all direct provision residents.  Gifts may not be deemed as essential items, which the group typically focuses on, but for Louisamay, that doesn’t excuse any reluctance to source them.

She has received many quirky donations from members of the public, noting that: “I got decks, you know, like DJ decks.” Her own passion for music production means she wants to find the right person to gift it too. “There’s some kid out there who’s going to appreciate them so much. I know that having those decks could open up a whole new musical world for someone.” 

The initiative has evolved from assisting medical staff to providing support for those in direct provision, but Louisamay’s commitment towards helping those worst affected by the pandemic remains a firm constant.

Journalism Student at DCU. Contributor at Her Campus and The College View. Email: roisin.butler9@mail.dcu.ie
BA in Economics, Politics and Law DCU. Currently studying European Union Law in The University of Amsterdam. Campus Correspondent for Her Campus DCU 2020/2021!