Irish community organizations in Boston step up in a big way during the pandemic

Shane Caffrey, Vice Counsel General of Ireland in Boston

While Boston has long been a place of refuge and sanctuary for Irish emigrants, it is also a place where the Irish have thrived, prospered, and become an integral part of the fabric of this great city.

In times gone by, when the going got tough, this community would come together to support one another, and offer a helping hand to those in need. The Charitable Irish Society, founded in the city in 1737, is the oldest Irish society in the Americas, and is still going strong.  Today as we work to confront the challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic, our community organizations are once again providing vital services throughout the Boston area.

In response to the crisis, the Rian Immigrant Center and 10 other partner organizations came together to form the Boston Immigrant COVID-19 Collaborative (BICC). The City of Boston appointed the Rian Immigrant Center (formerly known as the Irish International Immigrant Center) to coordinate this group. Many immigrants, especially those who are undocumented, lost their jobs and have little-to-no access to benefits or healthcare. 

Ronnie Millar, Executive Director, Rian Immigrant Center told us: "When the crisis hit, we immediately pivoted our services to address the urgent needs of our immigrant families.  We are deeply grateful to the Irish Government for their support for Irish immigrants who have been severely impacted by the Covid crisis." 

The Irish Pastoral Centre, based in Dorchester, lies at the very heart of Irish community life in Boston. Despite all of the difficulties the past months have posed, the IPC continue to provide services, which range from supports for the elderly, immigration advice, as well as welfare and counselling supports. 

“We have not been stopped in our commitment to our community. We continue to reach out to our seniors via phone calls, and we assist them in anything they need, from supermarket shopping to prescription collections,” said IPC Executive Director, Peggy Davis-Mullen, who added: “The IPC has distributed close to $50,000 since April to those most in need and has helped in other ways, too, providing counselling and creating a stockpile of essential household goods for those most in need. Through this difficult time, the IPC has remained the light in the darkness, the candle shining in the window for the people we serve, and the IPC will continue as we have always done to welcome the stranger among us.”

The latest IPC Newsletter concluded by capturing the essence of what the Irish community organizations in Boston are working so hard to achieve as we come together to hold each other up during challenging times:

“It is at times like these that the true spirit of Irish people shines through and our sense of community is strong. It is really encouraging and heartwarming when people get together to help one another and shows that most people have not forgotten where they came from.

“As the old Irish saying goes: “Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireann na daoine.” “It is in the shelter of each other that the people live.”

Shane Caffrey is Vice Consul at the Consulate General of Ireland in Boston.