Traveller men from the Cashel area were involved in building a commemorative table as part of the EU Charter weekend in Cashel.
The base of the table contained a time capsule which was filled with objects from the Charter delegates visiting the town for the historic occasion. The table itself was covered by handprints from the delegates of the different countries that came to Cashel over the weekend and those handprints were then carved out in stone by the men.
Over 10 Traveller men were involved in the building of the table which was done in conjunction with Philip Quinn of Stonemad.ie. Over the course of the weekend different delegates and the public were involved in designing and constructing the table along with the artist and the men.
The men are involved in an overall South Tipperary Traveller Men’s project that is ongoing throughout the county.They take part in a wide range of activities including health activities, development work and educational activities. A full time Development Worker works with the men to help link them in with different services and is there to support them. It is a two year project with funding being provided by Pobal, South Tipperary VEC, the HSE, FAS, South Tipperary County Council and Tipperary Rural Traveller Project.
There are four men’s groups: Cahir, Cashel, Clonmel and Killenaule. The groups take part in literacy, numeracy, computer classes as well as undertaking practical studies such as woodwork, metalwork, stone carving and gardening and engaging in sports activities. This provides a more rounded learning experience as well as drawing on the men’s own life skills and is an excellent way of engaging with them, building group morale and providing a support network.
The classes enable the learners to improve their skills in reading, writing and spelling through the use of real life situations such as form filling, letter writing, driver theory test practise as well as providing a range of articles that interest and engage the men.
Some of the highlights of the year from the Clonmel group have been the process of setting up a handball club, a sport which the men love. Although setting up a club and committee can be a real challenge, the men adopted the committee structure with ease as they are very anxious to set up their own handball club.
Eight men from the Killenaule Mens’s group completed the FETAC Level 3 in Craft. This involved the design of garden benches which the men completed as part of their projects. The men also completed a stone carving course with Philip Quinn at Stonemad Workshops in Holycross.
The men look forward to attending the classes and when asked to sum up the past year one of the men said “it’s been challenging but very rewarding”.
Learners have made enormous progress in computer related activities from a starting point of learning how to turn on a computer, to a point where some can independently carry out searches for project work, help research their children’s homework and carry out searches on topics of personal interest. All the men expressed a great desire that the project be continued for a longer period as one of the men said “this is our first time being involved in this kind of project.”
The South Tipperary Traveller Men’s project emphasis the positive contribution that Traveller men can have on Irish society when given the opportunity, therefore it is vital that continued funding is secured to ensure that Traveller men will continue to be engaged in activities that interest and inspire them going into the future.