Jimmy Deenihan, the newly appointed Minister for Diaspora to the Irish government attended an Irish Open Day at a St. Mungo’s Hostel in Chichester Rd, Kilburn Park, London on Wednesday 15th October. The minister for this brand-new department met Irish residents of the hostel, clients of the Aisling Return to Ireland Project. Aisling is celebrating its 20th year of helping long term Irish migrants in London make contact with their homeland through supported visits and rehabilitative holidays, providing an important service for homeless and vulnerable people. The Minister also launched a substantially revamped new website for the charity, created free of charge by Kainos developers.

The Kainos team in Belfast – in particular the hard work of project lead Michael Kemp –  gave the website a substantial overhaul over the Summer. Everyone at Aisling is pleased with the resulting site – an easily navigable, updatable website, with a much clearer journey for users to donate to the cause. The website also better showcases photography and work by artists connected to the project. There are new sections for outreach and volunteering on the site now, as these activities form the basis for most of what Aisling does, allowing more people to access its services and apply for a return trip to Ireland.

The minister met with workers and volunteers from Aisling, as well as Aisling clients who have returned to Ireland with the project over the years. Music was provided by London Irish musicians including Caroline Regan and Maria McCormick. The minister was particularly pleased to meet a friend of his family from his home town in Kerry now living in St. Mungos, London, and to see some old faces he recognised from Kerry on the new Aisling website.

Alex McDonnell, Co-ordinator of the Aisling Project said, “We’re really pleased with the result – the new website will help us to reach out to more Irish people who are alone and estranged from Ireland and their families. It will also help us to contact other Irish emigrants who would like to volunteer with the project and help us to support vulnerable Irish men and women in London”.

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