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November 23rd 2020

Frank Bannister

John D. Carroll

As members will have been notified by President Alan, PDG John passed away last Thursday. He was a great member, President and District Governor whose from whose good works, often quietly done, many have benefitted. Our thoughts go out to his son Kenneth and the Carroll family. May he rest in peace.

Our speaker today is Gabe Hau, Rotary Club of Melbourne, “Creating a Peacebuilding Club.”

Forthcoming Speakers and Event
Nov 30th St. Andrew’s Day: President Alan Davidson will speak on one of his favourite subjects.
Dec 7th Combined Annual/Special General Meeting.
Dec 14th Speaker to be announced.

Rotary Rangers Walks
Due to the above new restrictions on movements of our population, PP Brian confirms that regretfully it is not possible for our Rotary Ranger's weekly walks to continue. There is nothing to stop individuals walking within 5 KMs of our homes, but not as a group, alas.

There were 26 member attendees at the meeting on the 16th of November and three visitors. The latter included PP Bernard Ziade of the RC de Paris Nord and Hong Anh (Rose) who is a scholarship student from the Paris Nord club and who is currently undertaking a Masters in Humanitarian Action at UCD (see below). Both guests were introduced by Hon Secretary Tony. Tony and PE Alexander have agreed to be Hong Anh’s sponsors while she is in Dublin. ADG Mike Connolly also dropped in briefly at the start of the meeting, but was unable to stay for long.

Hon Sec Tony presented apologies from Rana Al Damin and David Horkan.

Thought for the Day
The thought for the day was provided by PP Ethna and delivered on her behalf (as she was having problems connecting at the start of the meeting) by Gerry McLarnon. It took the form of a poem by Spike Milligan that is particularly apposite for the times that are in it:

Smiling is infectious, you catch it like the flu, When someone smiled at me today, I started smiling too.
I passed around the corner and someone saw my grin. When he smiled I realized I'd passed it on to him.
I thought about that smile, then I realized its worth. A single smile, just like mine could travel round the earth.
So, if you feel a smile begin, don't leave it undetected. Let's start an epidemic quick, and get the world infected!

President’s Announcements
• President Alan welcomed John Costello who we have not seen in a while.
• There was some bad new unfortunately, in that Kenneth Carroll had been in touch to say that his father, PDG John D. was in hospital after suffering a severe stroke. Kenneth says that the situation is not good and asked members to remember his father in their prayers (sadly, John D. died on Thursday).
• Alan welcomed Hong Anh and noted that there were members of the club including PP Bernadette who lived in Phibsboro when Hong Anh is based. Hopefully, when the virus is under control, she will be able to meet with them socially.
• It has long been the tradition that the Lord Mayor of Dublin address the club at some time during his or her year. Alan has written to Lord Mayor Hazel Chu and invited her to speak at the last meeting before Christmas, but he has yet to receive a confirmation that she is available (her office has since told president Alan that she is not available on that day).

Member’s Wishing to Speak
• Delma Sweeney said that there was good news from District. She had received an e-mail from Dave Murray indicating that a grant had been approved for the Mark Pollock fund. Alan was sure that PP Brian would be delighted to hear this. Brian had not yet joined the meeting at that point, but he did shortly afterwards and confirmed that he was indeed delighted. At the meeting, there was some uncertainty about the size of the grant, but it has been confirmed since that the figure is €5,000.
• Delma also spoke of the plans for the virtual Christmas party. The party will be on the 16th of December. Members can invite one guest and members (and presumably guests if they want) are expected to deliver a party piece, though this is not compulsory. This could be a song, a story, a poem or whatever is appropriate given the possibilities and limitations of the medium. PP Bernadette will be master of ceremonies. There will be four interludes. One will feature VP David Booth playing the guitar. The second will be Fiona McAuslan, a Scotswoman and a former member of the NSO, who will perform a number of Scottish Christmas songs on the violin. The third will be PP Mariandy who play some piano pieces and the fourth will be Mike Timms, an actor. The party will start at 7.30. Tickets are €25 (nonattendance tickets are €20). All money raised will go to Foundation. Delma has several people signed up already. With each ticket, you also get a ticket for the raffle.
• Jono Pim said that he had brought a carload of secondhand clothes to Trust the preceding week. His boot has plenty of room so he and Alice would welcome any further contributions. Men’s clothes only and preferably in smaller sizes. Shirts, anoraks and other winter weather gear are particularly useful.
• Mary O reported on the adventures of the St Louis’ Interact club. They have been particularly creative in considering what they might do during a lockdown and have hit on the idea of converting an old tennis court into a mental health garden including providing seating and planting trees. Mary said that she will try to organize some photographs of the work.
• Invited to say a few words by Hon Secretary Tony, our guest, PP Bernard from the RC de Paris Nord said that he had been very impressed when dealing with our club and the great team that had helped him. He thanked Tony and President Alan for their support. Hong Anh’s scholarship does not formally begin until the start of February 2021; it runs up to the end of July 2022 (so, vaccines permitting, we should get a chance to meet her in person). During her studies, Hong Anh will be commuting between Dublin and Uppsala in Sweden as part of her studies in peace keeping.
• Hong Anh told us something about herself. She is 22 years old and was born in Warsaw to Vietnamese parents. She had gone to kindergarten in a French school in Poland and moved to Paris at the age of 11 for her secondary education after her parents lost all of their money in the 2008 crash. She is a law graduate with a Bachelor Degree and is now studying for her Masters. Her areas of interest are gender bias and religious conflicts. She speaks French, English, Polish, Spanish and, of course, Vietnamese.
• PP Mariandy said that a new “public image” package had been created with a new template for the club/Rotary. It is a highly professional production. She will copy it to all members.
• PP Paul Martin said that a physical visit by Santa to the Children’s hospital would not be possible this year. The matron with whom the club had worked with for many years has retired and a new Matron has been appointed. She is interested in keeping this project going. Paul hopes that, despite the logistical challenges, we can still buy presents and deliver them to the hospital. He may have to break the five kilometre limit to do this, but he can claim that Santa has to do this for work purposes. It may be possible to do something virtually. He is looking into this.
• At the other end of the age spectrum, Paul has been working with Betty Watson in the Rostrevor centre and has persuaded his company to provide a presentation box for each of the 50 or so people involved in the centre.

Last week’s Speaker
Our speaker last week was Barry Owns of the Irish Association for Social Inclusion Opportunities (IASIO) was introduced by PP Tom. Barry thanked the club for inviting him and said that he proposed to outline the work that IASIO does to help former prisoners re-integrated into society. They deal with males and females, young and old, gay and straight, etc. and people who have committed all type of crimes.

Critical to re-integrating a former criminal into society is employment and much of what followed would be about who IASIO is, what they do and how they help ex-prisoners get back into the workplace. IASIO emerged originally from Business in the Community and is funded by the Probation Service, the Irish Prison Service and the Central Mental Hospital. They offer two services: guidance and placement and re-settlement and support. These are comprised of a number of sub-services: The Linkage Service, the Gate service, the Resettlement Service, the Community Support Scheme and the Befriender Service.They have 38 frontline staff.

Barry gave us some statistics types of help over the period 2012-2019

Type of Help Linkage Gate Total
Referrals 11,309 6,605 17,915
Employment 2,298 836 3,134
Training 2,378 1,122 3,500
Education 1,583 807 2,390
Total 6,259 2,765

Since 2012, the re—settlement scheme has provide/helped with:

7,682 employment references;
1,570 housing applications;
1,772 medical card applications;
1,378 Social Welfare supports.

Over the years much work has been done on studying what keeps people from falling back into crime. This has been done by studying repeat offenders with multiple sentences. The objective is to look for pattern and understand why they do it. If you can do this, it is easier to break this cycle.

Criminals come from all walks of life, but they tend to come from poorer communities. Early school leavers are more at risk as are people with little or intermittent work histories. Substance abuse is, of course, a significant contributor. Once somebody has been convicted, they can gain a notoriety which some use to their advantage. In practice, most criminals have suffered from adversity in their person lives. Criminals often come from homes where neither parent has ever worked.

So why would an employer hire somebody like this? This problem of finding jobs for prisoner has, as you would expect, been exacerbated by the recent collapse of the economy which has create a homelessness crisis (or maybe exacerbated what was already a crisis). Released prisoners not only have no work, they have nowhere to go and this often means that they fall back into crime.

Linkage and Gate use the principle in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs at the most fundamental levels of which are food, clothing and shelter. These have to be attended to first. Then they can start working towards the goal of re-integrating ex-prisoners back into the workforce. This is done using focused training. Most criminals are young and many 19- to 20-year-olds have no idea what they want to do with their lives or what type of work they would like to do. Working this out with them is one of the first steps. They ask questions like “What is it you want?” and “What is it that stands in your way?” When they know this, they put in place a plan to achieve this goal.

There are alternative pathways back into the world of work and the challenge is obviously much greater for those who have been in prison than it is for those who have only been on probation. The good news is that most criminals not only stop, but want to stop. The process of getting a criminal to stop committing crimes is called “desistance”. There have been many studies of how to make this effective. Desistence is used particularly critical with younger people. Motivation is core to success, though there are different problems with different genders and with different cultures. Hope and agency are necessary for change to occur, but employment is central followed by family support. Employment gives not just money, but identity, purpose and even status. IASIO points out that most ex-prisoners make excellent employees – they are loyal and hardworking and keen to acquire new skills. IASIO offers a cost-effective recruitment process and there may be funding available from JobsPlus. Another approach is to use the concept of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). Helping to rehabilitate ex-prisoners is one way that companies can deliver CSR to the community and it can be a win-win-win, for the ex-prisoner, the employer and the community. IASIO provides help and support for employers.

IASIO is launching its new strategy on-line on the 20th of November from 10.30 to 12.30 and Barry extended an open invitation to all of us to come and see their future plans.

In questions, President Alan asked about re-integration. The tabloids liked to paint a picture of dyed-in-the-wool, long-term criminals who were beyond redemption. Barry said (emphatically) that this was wrong. People change and his own experience of dealing with criminals over many years is that most of them feel remorse about what they have done. John Costello said that he served on a parole board and it was great to see prisoners re-integrate back into society. He mentioned a scheme in Brixton prison where prisoners ran a restaurant that is open to the public. In most prisons, prisoners did all of the cooking for themselves and their fellow inmates (for more on this see Parole boards were particularly keen on (re)training and employment. Roger Owens asked about social inclusion and the problems when, for example, known sex offender were released. Should other employees be told that one of their colleagues is such an offender? Barry said that they were familiar with this problem and had clear rules and guidelines to deal with it. The possibility of self-employment was raised. Barry said that this was difficult and good solutions were hard to find. There were also problems with things like insurance.

President Alan gave the vote of thanks.

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