We are here HEAR is one of 20 projects funded by the Public Service Innovation Fund 2021 

From 2020-2021 College Connect a project spanning four universities; AIT, DCU, DkIT and MU, in partnership with the Irish Refugee Council carried out research with over 100 refugees. Many are fleeing their countries of origin because of war or poverty, and some will have experienced trauma, torture, human trafficking, violence, exploitation, grief, and loss.

The We are here HEAR project aims to provoke public attention and challenge stigma and stereotypes of refugees and people seeking asylum, through an open-air touring exhibition of photographs and stories being hosted in a number of locations in the Midlands, East, North and Dublin regions. Cultural Awareness Training materials have also been developed by experienced educators on subjects stemming from the research.

Get involved by telling us what you think about the project by taking our survey or check out our training materials and see how your organisation could become more inclusive and culturally aware.

The Project Team

Dr. Sarah Sartori is a researcher and educator based in Maynooth University. She is the research manager for College Connect, whose aim is to increase the diversity of the university population, through finding out the support needs of groups underrepresented in Ireland at 3rd level e.g., refugees, Travellers and Roma, people with convictions etc. Sarah is trained in arts-based methodologies, which means taking research outside the academy and into the public space for engagement and to inspire social change.

Contact Sarah: sarah.sartori@mu.ie

Karen Fenlon is a research associate on College Connect and an educator on the Turn to Teaching programme in Maynooth University, that aims to promote diversity in the teaching profession through a series of social-justice orientated widening participation initiatives. Karen’s has a H.Dip. in Adult and Community Education and her Masters explored the educational experiences of incarcerated women from a feminist perspective, and regularly teaches in the Pathways Centre for Prisoners and Former Prisoners. Karen is an experienced educator who takes an adult education approach to facilitation, that is respectful of participants’ life experience and expertise.

Contact Karen: karen.fenlon@mu.ie

Tyran Lovett is a multimedia specialist based in Maynooth. Currently, he is the
Communication Officer for the MEND College Connect Programme. Tyran has received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Media Studies and Anthropology. Tyran has developed his visual media skills working on social justice campaigns, gaining extensive experience working with ethnic minorities and marginalised groups.

Contact Tyran: tyran@tyxii.com

Alketa Hotaj is a researcher in the field of immigration based in Dublin. She has previously worked as a researcher for Ombudsman for Children Ireland, Irish Refugee Council and College Connect. Additionally, she has experience in a wide range of responsibilities and work environments. She has a keen interest in human rights, immigration, peace-building and international security. She is currently an MA Candidate in Security, Intelligence & Strategic Studies, and a member of the University of Sanctuary Ireland Steering Committee.


Zoryana Pshyk is an experienced facilitator with Partners Training for Transformation as well as an associate lecturer with the Department of Adult and Community Education, MU. As an ex-asylum seeker and a current Chair for Kildare Integration Network, a member of the Newbridge Asylum Seekers Support Group (NASSG), Zoryana supports integration in County Kildare. She is a member of the Maynooth University of Sanctuary Committee. Zoryana is passionate about the education of marginalized communities, specifically women, and an advocate for social justice, equality, diversity, and inclusion.

Contact Zoryana: ZoryanaPshyk@mu.ie

James Deeges is originally from Guyana, South America, Kildare based photographer and film-maker James Deeges developed a passion for photography early on. He completed a Diploma in Photography at the Photography Institute in London in 2012. James migrated to Ireland in November 2016 and has worked with clients such as the Dublin Inquirer, MASI, Rotary Ireland and Kildare County Council. As he loves giving back to his community he completed a Degree in Community Development and Leadership with Maynooth University. James joined the College Connect Team in 2021.

Contact James: JamesDeeges@me.com

Kinda Nassli is a former Syrian TV host. She is an associate of College Connect and worked as a peer -researcher on the research supporting refugees to gain access to 3rd level education. Kinda has presented at MU social justice week 2021 and DCU Refugee week 2021. A graduate from Aleppo University with a bachelors in English Literature, Kinda discovered that in Ireland the secret of finding identity is not only by building cultural bridges among people but also in discovering already existing bridges among human beings.

Contact Kinda: kinda.nassli@mu.ie

Lilian Nwanze is a Doctoral student in the Department of Adult and Community Education, Maynooth University, Ireland. She is an Irish Research Council Scholar and is currently through her PhD, exploring the impact racism has on Black women in Education. Lilian qualified and worked as a barrister and a solicitor in Nigeria before migrating to Ireland. Today she works as an associate staff member of Maynooth University. Lilian is constantly exploring ways to make the classroom experience more effective and inclusive for students of every race.

The Stakeholders/Funders

The Maynooth University Access Programme (MAP) encourages under-represented groups to enter third level and provides these groups with support through their time at Maynooth. These groups include under-represented school leavers, mature students, students with disabilities, members of the Irish Traveller community and refugees.

The Irish Refugee Council provide services and support for people seeking protection and people recognised as refugees in Ireland and advocate for humane and dignified protection procedures and responses to people fleeing persecution.

DCU have a strong tradition of creating equality of access to third-level education for students from groups currently under-represented in higher education.

The Public Service Innovation Fund is a competitive fund that aims to support innovative ideas from across public service organisations and turn them into a reality with funding. We are here, HEAR was gratefully awarded funding from PSIF in 2021.

Dublin Castle’s community engagement and outreach service expand their learning programme beyond the walls of the Castle. Through collection-focused projects and events, they reach out into the community and work with groups who might not otherwise access the Castle’s public programme.

College Connect is a joint initiative of four Higher Education Institutions in the Midlands and North Dublin Region (MEND). Athlone Institute of Technology (AIT), Dundalk Institute of Technology (DkIT), Dublin City University (DCU), and Maynooth University (MU). They work together to signpost you to the support and services you need to apply for college.

Our vision is a student population that ‘reflects and respects the diversity of our community.  College Is For Anyone; IT CAN BE YOU