Ornua - Creating a University of Sanctuary Scholarship

In 2018, Ornua, Ireland’s largest exporter of dairy products and owner of the iconic Kerrygold brand, announced their support for a scholarship to enable an asylum seeker to complete an undergraduate degree through DCU’s University of Sanctuary initiative. In this piece, Shane Barry, HR Business Partner with Ornua, describes what motivated the company to support this scholarship.

What inspired Ornua to support a University of Sanctuary scholarship at DCU?

When DCU Educational Trust got in touch with Ornua to tell us about the University of Sanctuary programme last year, it didn’t take long for us to agree to support a scholarship. It is a very compelling initiative and one which links to the commitments Ornua have made as part of ‘Our Way Matters’ – which is our approach to sustainability and corporate social responsibility.

Our aim is to be an employer of choice, providing excellent development opportunities for our global workforce. So, it is fitting that we are extending our passion for education and learning to someone from outside the organisation. We are proud to provide the funding that will allow Sisa, our scholarship recipient, to further her education and aid her integration into Irish society.

We also have a longstanding link with DCU and a lot of our current and former employees are DCU alumni. In fact, our current CEO John Jordan is a DCU graduate, as is Bernard Condon, Managing Director of our Global Ingredients Division.”


How does the University of Sanctuary programme fit with Ornua’s own values as a company?

“Ornua is a dairy co-operative which markets and sells dairy products on behalf of its members; Ireland’s dairy processors and, in turn, the Irish dairy farmer. This co-operative ethos is at the heart of everything we do, and our company values reflect that.  For example, one of our values, With Vision, includes our commitment to developing our people and talks about having a curious mindset and to “always be learning”. Another of our values, “With Heart”, talks about our desire to bring out the best in each other and value our differences.  So supporting the University of Sanctuary programme is a great fit with our culture and values and we are proud to be associated with this great initiative.”


The University of Sanctuary creates hope and opportunity for residents of direct provision in Ireland, including Sisa Bhebe, the student currently supported by your scholarship. How has meeting with Sisa affected you and helped you to understand the importance of your support?

“Personally, I didn’t fully understand what it meant to live in direct provision. Meeting with Sisa really opened my eyes to the conditions experienced by those living in direct provision and the difficulties they face to gain access to education and employment.

I came away from our first meeting with Sisa feeling very proud that Ornua were supporting this programme. I know that other colleagues also share this feeling of pride as we received similar feedback when we shared a news story about the scholarship internally.

I was also really struck by Sisa’s recognition that she is one of a small number of lucky ones who have been able to attend third level education, and that there are hundreds of others in her situation who would also like to do the same. While we are supporting one student, I hope that our association with the initiative will help to raise awareness of the challenges that others like Sisa continue to face.

I’m glad to say that we have also extended our support to Sisa by offering her a work placement in our Dublin Finance team this summer to provide some practical experience to complement her Accounting and Finance studies in DCU.”