Looking to the future by City of Dublin Youth Service Board (CDYSB)

Context of Author

CDYSB is a sub-committee of the City of Dublin Education and Training Board

Country

Republic of Ireland

Summary

Based in Exchange House in Grand Street, Dublin 1, Exchange House Traveller Youth Service is the largest provider of services to young Travellers in the greater Dublin Area. Opening in 1980 as a response to young Travellers who were on the streets and glue sniffing, Exchange House has expanded greatly and continuously strives to meet the needs of all young people who access the service. Within Exchange House there is a long history of Traveller specific youth work dating back across the last 3 decades. With the support of the Exchange House youth work team, the following is a personal story from one of the young people that access the service…

Annie Connors Story in Full

I’m 19 years of age. I live on a halting site in Dublin and am the youngest of four siblings having 2 brothers and a sister. Growing up I was always looked after by my older siblings and I am very close to my older sister. She got married 5 years ago and I got to be bridesmaid. Marriage is important in my culture and occasions like Weddings and Christenings are an opportunity to meet family we might not see all the time. These are happy occasions where we like to have fun, dance and have a laugh. I got married myself this year to a man from Tallaght and have always believed it is important to get to know somebody first before you agree to marry them.

I have been involved with Exchange House since I was six years old. I started in the Afterschool Programme and when I was 10 I joined the Youth Service. My years in the Youth Service have given me the opportunity to develop my interest in and talent for Art and I have lots of fun memories. These memories include Summer Programmes with trips to Clara Lara, The Viking Splash Tour and Causey Farm and residential trips with the Leaders to Carlingford and Glendalough.

One of my funniest memories of Glendalough is sitting up with the other girls at night telling stories about the fun we had at different activities we had been involved in. We’d also tell ghost stories and on one occasion I dressed up using a sheet and Sudocreme to pretend to be a ghost. I popped up at the window while the girls were watching a scary movie and I reckon you could hear them screaming right back to Dublin. I also took part in the Youth Services ‘Leadership’ Programme where we learned different skills and procedures for working with groups of young people. We learned about Health and Safety and at the end I got a certificate. From then on I began to volunteer with the Youth Service during the summer programmes. I also went on to work with different projects in my area and hope to continue to work with young people and build a future for my community.

As a child I always struggled in school. I found certain subjects hard and I was often separated from my class and friends to concentrate on these subjects. My brother moved to Bray and at times when I’d visit it would be too late to come home so I would miss the next day in school. The Youth Service always encouraged me to go to school and began working in my school with me and the other Traveller girls around attendance and behaviour. I was always told “you are very intelligent” or “you’ve only a few more months left”, but at the time I believed that other things were more important like hanging around with my friends who had left school early or a beauty appointment in the local Salon.

With a lot of support from the Youth Service I managed to complete my Junior Certificate. The following October I got one of Exchange House’s National Educational Achievement Awards and got to meet the Lord Mayor of Dublin Eibhlin Byrne. After the Junior Certificate most of my friends left school, I found this difficult and I wanted to leave school too. At the time I wanted to be a Hairdresser. The Youth Service encouraged me to stay in school and try it as part of my fourth year work experience before making the decision to leave altogether. They kept working in my school and would ring me to check how school was and if I needed any help with anything. Despite the struggle, in 2011 I was very proud to be the first member of my family to complete the Leaving Certificate. I received a second Exchange House Educational Achievement Award and at the awards ceremony I got to meet and talk to the then Minister for Children Barry Andrews.

I am extremely proud to be a Traveller and think our culture is something to be celebrated. We often get a lot of negativity in the news and newspapers, often stereotyped as being dirty and robbers and when we go into shops we are always followed by Security Guards. This often makes me sad but then I think of the things that make me proud. We have a distinct culture with songs and stories and our own language. Family is the most important thing to me and I would not be who I am today without them and when I have my own family I hope to pass on all the songs and stories that my parents and grandparents gave to me. I also hope to give them an appreciation of what the benefits a good education can do for people, especially those like me who come from a disadvantaged area.

In the future I would like to see all Travellers with an education and look forward to a day when we are not treated negatively because of our background, we are Irish people who love our country and wish to be treated as such. Someday I hope to see my children and settled children learning different stories from each other and growing up together as friends. I wish for better standards in Traveller accommodation and my halting site to have an adequate play area for the kids.

As for now I am concentrating on my interest in community work and my new marriage. I feel the future is bright for me and I can be anything I want to be…

Links

Youth Works: True Stories from Youth Work Practice and Provision. City of Dublin Youth Services Board. 2012

The full publication can be accessed on the CDYSB website in the publications section www.cdysb.ie

Contact

John Farrelly, Development Officer CDYSB, e-mail: john.farrelly@cdysb.cdetb.ie