|Contact: Maura Murphy, firstname.lastname@example.org|
UL is pioneering work with the Traveller community, led by John Heneghan who lectures in the Kemmy Business School.
These visits resulted in a 10-week course in food preparation attended by 16 Traveller Women, which led to a month-long personal development course during which the women came to UL three mornings a week. The women suggested that UL develop a course that would appeal to Traveller men.
John recalls, “Once we had developed a rapport with the parents, we said, ‘How can we help your kids progress in school?’” The result: a current 11 homework clubs around Limerick, 6 in national schools and 5 in post-primary, involving over 60 children. In addition, over 40 Traveller adults are engaged with the UL and the wider community. Traveller women are working with the Garda Minorities Liaison Unit, whose meetings are hosted by UL. Six Travellers attend UL as undergraduates, 2 as postgraduates.
“We’ve channelled services from various agencies in a collaborative way to progress Travellers,” says John. “Our work has helped break down barriers for other agencies. In addition, UL has credibility at all the halting sites in Limerick.” Olive O’Reilly graduated from UL in August with a diploma in Women’s Studies.
First established: 2001
By further outlining the processes or mechanics that reflect the actual engagement with Travellers, the framework thus suggests application to a wider group of similar disadvantaged parties. In this sense, it can be considered as Prof. Mike Morley of the Kemmy Business School has described it as “a fundamental architecture for social inclusion”.
The qualities emerged after several years of engagement with Travellers from the Limerick City and County areas by UL’s John Heneghan. By recognising that winning the respect and confidence of the adults was a prerequisite to tackling school attendance for children, interventions for adults paved the way for a new attitude by parents to education for their children.
The resulting goodwill showed that rapport rather than money sustained the parental support. In time that rapport facilitated discussions on Travellers’ view of their neighbours and wider community and an introspection of their responsibilities to that community. Empathy emerged as a key quality in addressing problems concerning community relations and essential in confronting behaviour issues. It also facilitated the imparting of negotiation skills and contributed to reducing tension significantly between Travellers and the County Council’s Housing department. The advent of the Interagency Group very quickly provided the benefits of effective collaboration in addition to enhancing the prospect of sustaining these activities. Accordingly, these 5 qualities emerged and suggest a synergistic effect when used together interactively.
An important insight that brought clarity to the framework as a theoretical concept was that while our model containing interventions succeeded in engaging with some 11 schools, 100+ Travellers, published 6 books on Traveller culture and offers a direction for progressing forward, it does not explain this success. The framework suggests that key qualities must be present and grasped by agencies collectively in order to meet the prominent challenges faced by Travellers and other disadvantaged groups.