After settling in Ireland in 2005, Wojciech Bialek soon became an active member of the Polish community. He started volunteering and became the Chariman of MyCork: a Polish cultural association in Cork. Since 2007, he has been the chairman of Together-Razem Support & Integration Centre, a Cork-based charity whose aim is to support Polish migrants in Ireland and foster their integration with the local community.
Wojciech not only takes a leading role in managing the organisation, but also runs several projects, such as Activator, a programme for long-term unemployed, equipping them with necessary job-seeking skills; a support and education group for the homeless people; psycho-educational workshops for women (to foster their ability to build violence-free relationships) and computer courses for older persons.
Wojciech also initiated and developed many successful projects such as legal clinics (whereby Irish lawyers offered free legal advice to Polish immigrants); a social advisory drop-in clinic run in collaboration with the Polish Embassy in Dublin and a weekly social group for older members of the Polish community. Currently Wojtek is developing a rehabilitation programme for prisoners and ex-prisoners.
Wojciech’s interests are not limited to the matters of Polish Diaspora. His aspiration is to improve integration of different ethnic communities in Ireland. With that aim in mind, he has been working with Irish organisations such as St. Vincent de Paul, Cork Simon Community and the Cork Migrant Centre. He also initiated the local election actions, as well as a Census 2011 project amongst the Polish Community in Cork.
Kasia Golebiowska, fellow volunteer at Together-Razem, nominated Wojciech for a Volunteer Ireland Awards. Kasia said “Thanks to Wojciech’s efforts, Together-Razem has developed very dynamically over the last year, acquiring new premises, increasing the number of volunteers, initiating several new projects and assisting more people in need. Those successes would have been impossible without Wojciech’s inspired leadership, creativity and boundless energy. Wojciech is a true inspiration for all of us volunteers of Together-Razem Centre.”
Photography by Simon Della Fornce