International Women’s Day @ Bangor Rotary

| January 22, 2023

Wednesday 8th March@ 11:30am. Bangor Golf Club, Broadway, Bangor

President Margaret invites you to join her and a panel of women from around the world who have chosen to make Northern Ireland their home.

In this Panel Discussion organised by Rtn Barbara Boyle and moderated by Mayor and Rotarian Karen Douglas, we will discover more of the experience that immigrants have to living in Northern Ireland. Do newcomers to Northern Ireland find us friendly or threatening? Are they welcomed or dismissed?

Take this opportunity to see Northern Ireland through other people’s eyes and perspectives and consider where we have succeeded and where we need to improve.

The International Women’s Day Panel

Odalis Alvarado (USA)

Odalis Alvarado was born and raised in Texas, United States. She is the proud daughter of immigrants parents from Zacatecas, Mexico. Her humble beginnings taught her to work hard for her dreams and to dream the impossible. Odalis Alvarado is a post-graduate student at Queen’s University Belfast pursuing a master’s degree in educational studies. Odalis’ education is being founded by a $40,000 Rotary Global Grant to serve low-income students abroad.

She graduated from the University of North Texas with a Master’s in Public Administration in August 2022. Where she learned effective tools to lead and manage organizations. Her undergraduate degree in Political Science and Criminal Justice from Sam Houston State University open her eyes to the injustices occurring around her. Thus, after graduating at 20 she moved to Tainan, Taiwan to teach English.

In Taiwan, she began taking Mandarin courses and continues to study it has her third language today. At the moment, Odalis is organizing a project which focuses on advancing the status of women and girls in Belfast. Rotary Clubs in Grapevine, Texas, and Belfast as well as the Horn of Africa People’s Aid NI (HAPANI) are assisting with the project. After graduating from Queen’s Odalis will move to Taiwan to work in the educational field with the help of a Fulbright Grant.

In her free time, Odalis enjoys traveling, couponing, and practicing Mandarin.

Kafilat Kazeem Bolatito, (Nigeria)

Kafilat says, “I immigrated to the United Kingdom from Nigeria and with extreme diligence and persistence.

“I have been able to raise four children while I have been working and completing a nursing degree at Ulster University in 2021.

“I have had to face many challenges, however, with the will and determination to make my children proud and to better myself, I was able to graduate with a first-class degree despite all my other responsibilities.

“I am now working as a mental health nurse for the Belfast Health & Social Care Trust. In the future I hope to continue with further studies.”

Kafilat has already achieved a BSc (Hons) Mental Health Nursing and a BA in Linguistics and Languages

Kristyene Boreland (Singapore) 

Kristyene says, “I arrived in Northern Ireland in 1993 after having lived in the Gulf (Oman) for a while where I was employed as Ward Deputy in the Royal Hospital of Muscat.

“Prior to that I qualified as a Registered General Nurse and worked in Acute Surgery for a few years in Tan Tock Seng Hospital in Singapore. I was born in Singapore to a father who was also born in Singapore and a mother who was from Malaysia.

“Theirs was an arranged marriage for the consolidation of wealth and status as it was practice in those days.  Currently, I am employed by the South Eastern Health Trust in social care for older people. This is both a rewarding and challenging job which I enjoy as it revolves around human rights, patient advocacy and supporting families.

“I have also spent a considerable time as an activist against domestic violence and in  support of Black Minority Ethic Women and have been attending the Equality Strategy All Party group at Stormont, discussing problems to help shape policies.

“I have a keen interest martial arts and practise Jujitsu. My other interest is Egyptian Dance and I am a qualified instructor as well as performer and use my art to raise cultural awareness of the Middle East.  I held classes and performed at high level events such as the reception for the Egyptian Ambassador at Stormont.

“Being an enthusiastic gardener, I have planted fruit trees and understand this can be a very meaningful and healing activity. In addition, the birds and bees will be ever so grateful to partake of nature’s gifts.”

Barbara Boyle (Germany) 

Barbara Boyle is an experienced German language tutor, translator and interpreter and has lived in Northern Ireland since 1996 and works for Queen’s University Belfast as a German language tutor and as Teaching Assistant for the ‘International Business with German’ course.

Barbara obtained two master’s degrees – a ‘Magister Artium’ in Pedagogy, Sociology and English Language Studies from the Ruhr-Universität Bochum (1990) and a ‘MA in Translation’ from QUB (2010). She has a postgraduate certificate in Social Management (Düsseldorf, 1991) as well as a ‘Certificate in Community Work’.

For five years she worked as journalist and was at one time executive director of a women’s radio association and in 1995 she acted as interim executive director for ‘Düsseldorfer Appell’ shortly before the birth of her second child.

She moved to Northern Ireland in April 1996 and from Autumn 1998 she began teaching at Queen’s, running journalism workshops, German language classes and lectured on German social policy.  She currently also teaches 2 German language classes at SERC and offers language class packages for the private and public sector. She has a keen interest in community work and women’s groups and has been the facilitator & contact person for ‘International Women in North Down’ since 2014.

She completed her tour guide training in March 2022 and is now a recognised Green Badge Tour Guide for Belfast, guiding on cruise ship bus tours and walking tours. Barbara has achieved both an  MA (RUB) and an MA (QUB), and is a Chartered Linguist.

Laura Finnegan (Mexico)

Laura Finnegan is a Further Education Lecturer with a passion for animal health and welfare and the environment. She has lived in Northern Ireland since 1992 and works as an Associated Lecturer in Animal Care and Management for the School of Sports and Applied Sciences. for South Eastern Regional College

Laura graduated as Veterinary Surgeon from the National Autonomous University of Mexico where she also carried out her master’s studies in animal epidemiology.

Laura worked for five years as a professor assistant and junior researcher at the same university in Mexico where she developed a passion for reaching education to the many that have not been as fortunate as her to receive a formal education. She worked in the Open University area of the School of Veterinary Medicine and developed a magazine to be distributed to practitioners working far away without access to information, pre-internet times.

Also, Laura worked tirelessly in promoting animal welfare back in Mexico, lobbying legislation for voiceless animals.

Like many immigrants, Laura’s education became nothing when she came to live in the UK. She literally had to start from the beginning, learning the language and making different opportunities for herself through self-employment while she could retake her career in education.

Laura has taken any educational opportunity offered in Northern Ireland, as she believes education is key for personal growth and for bettering society.

Laura has been working at SERC for the last 14 years and her biggest motivation is to see her students’ progress from having little or no formal qualification to employment in the animal industry or to the third level of education.

Laura never misses an opportunity to encourage her female students to fly as high as they can and to motivate them to believe in themselves, as gender equality is perhaps her biggest passion.

The Panel Moderator

Karen Douglas

The Mayor of Ards and North Down, Councillor Karen Douglas, will introduce and moderate the speakers and discussion.

A member of the Alliance Party and a Bangor Rotarian, Karen will introduce the panel giving each member an opportunity to introduce themselves and talk about their experiences in Northern Ireland, before opening the floor to Questions and Answers.



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