Words by Smiley Team
A community support group is supporting 10 Afghan refugees – all young women and girls – who recently arrived in Ireland and are now living in Dublin and Wicklow.
The Irish Government granted special residency visas on humanitarian grounds to the group, who had to leave their homes and families, fleeing from the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan. The women are all members of Ascend Athletics, a programme that has been developing Afghan girls’ physical fitness and providing community leadership training since 2014.
Their achievements were the subject of a documentary shown in Europe, and they were deemed vulnerable to Taliban persecution as a result. Some of the women are also more vulnerable because they are Hazaras, part of the country’s Shia minority, which is highly persecuted by the Sunni Taliban.
Friends of Ascend aims to provide support to enable the refugees to thrive in their new life in Ireland, completing their education, establishing careers and perhaps one day returning as stronger leaders to their homes in Afghanistan.
Every Saturday, the women go on an outing and they've even recently started going to a gym and taking swimming lessons, having never seen the sea before.
But most of all, the girls are eager to return to education.
"Today, I fell in love with becoming a lawyer more by going to the Kings Inns building in Dublin," one of the Ascend girls said. "Walking in an atmosphere where there were many lawyers, seeing paintings of lawyers throughout history, seeing a large library with old and new books related to law and advocacy gave me a great sense of joy and motivation.
“In Afghanistan, I was afraid of my goals because there were many obstacles, but now all my goals depend on my own efforts, and I will do my best to become a lawyer.
"And today I became more and more in love with becoming a lawyer.”
Friends of Ascend Ireland is a long-term project, and the people of Ireland have generously donated gym memberships, swimming lessons, clothes and housing support to the Afghan girls.
SUPPORT: The group is on Facebook – see how you can lend your support by joining the group.
DONATE: Friends of Ascend are fundraising 15,000 Euros to support their work, and you can make a donation via their fundraising page.