Minahil Sarfraz.

Other voices series with Mullingar Toastmasters

Mullingar Toastmasters had yet another special evening on November 12 last, when members were delighted to welcome guest Minahil Sarfraz, from Athlone.

Minahil is a Unicef Youth Ambassador for refugees and was the first speaker in the club’s ‘Other Voices series’ as it looks to embrace diversity and provide a platform for the community.

Minahil spoke about what life has been like for her as a young girl growing up in direct provision in Ireland and how it has affected her, her family and her friends.

The direct provision system is the Irish state response to the demands of refuges seeking asylum in this country. Intended as a temporary solution, it has, due to backlogs in the processing of asylum applications, become a limbo for children and adults who wait in uncertainty for decisions to be made on whether they can remain in this country.

About half of all applicants spend five years or more in direct provision – Minahil and her family spent 10 years.

Minhal spoke about the challenges of the living environment and how nearly every family in direct provision has encountered depression as they try to battle their unnatural environment.

She spoke of hearing her mother crying tears of exhaustion and desperation late one night while she was lying in bed due to the hopelessness of their situation.

That marked a turning point in her personal journey. She vowed from that day forward to not accept the social and political obstacles and to fight for the freedom of her family and friends.

She joined forces with a friend from direct provision and together they featured in an RTÉ documentary which brought them to the attention of Unicef and led to the United nations General Assembly, where they addressed Ban Ki Moon.

A spokesperson for Mullingar Toastmasters said: “Minahil is one of the best speakers we have ever heard. Her ability to deliver a speech is so perfectly timed. Her words were a mixture of kindness and love.

“What she transmits is an infinite amount of patience, maturity for her years, and strength of character.

“When asked what we can do to embrace diversity in our culture, Minahil said that a smile and a hello are all that is required. Just start there, she said.

“She is truly a special person and it was such a pleasure to have her attend our meeting. We certainly hope it won’t be the last time she visits us.

“We highly recommend you catch the documentary on RTÉ playback – it’s called ‘Leaving Limbo’ to connect to Minahils story.” View a clip here.

Full programme

The diverse community in Mullingar Toastmasters were inspired by Minahil’s presence and brought their ‘A’ game. There were 33 attendees and a full programme as guests joined from clubs in Navan, Athlone, Tullamore and as far off as Boston.

Two new members, Damian and Angela, were welcomed on the night as the club continues to grow.

Learning co-ordinator Lorraine Murphy, who secured the inspiring guest speaker, co-ordinated the night and managed the continuous challenge of technology in the Zoom world.

A packed programme rolled out with three excellent club speeches. Maureen McCormack gave an epic account of the Woodcraft Folk (an educational movement for children and young people) with powerful delivery and beautiful descriptive images from childhood that strongly resonated with all.

Ian Cahill gave an engaging first speech in a conversational tone that had us all wishing we were back in the Greville Arms listening to his tales of his father’s idiosyncratic language habits.

Pat Kenny delivered his Tommy Blue Eyes contest winning speech.

Timer Martina Murtagh kept order on a demanding night. Grammarian Anke gave a masterclass in the role and Brian McLoughlin executed the topics master role with gusto.

Topics contestants Pauline and Lorraine got to strut their stuff. General evaluator Ger Smith gave particular praise to evaluators and a positive summing up of an enjoyable night.

Club president Maria Costello wore two hats as she juggled president and Toastmaster roles with great enthusiasm.

The area’s humourous speech and topics contest went ahead on November 14. While the Mullingar contestants will not go through to the divisional final they were highly placed and that reflects the standards in the club.

Members would like to congratulate the three contestants, Pauline, Pat and Lorraine, as they did themselves and the club proud.

The next meeting is on November 26.

Mullingar Toastmasters welcome you into their community and would be delighted to have you along.

Maybe this is the year you will join in, and they would love to have you. Make contact with any queries.

There have been lots of guests this year and if you would like to come along as a guest, just reach out.

You will it will help you enjoy the dark evenings.

Contact details

Email: mullingartoastmasters@gmail.com.

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