Exchange visit to Pavee Point, Ireland
From 24 to 27 May 2022 ERGO Network and its members visited Pavee Point Traveller & Roma Centre in Dublin, Ireland, to learn about the situation of Irish Travellers and Roma communities in Ireland and the invaluable work of Pavee Point for these communities. Among the fellow member organizations who attended were staff from Integro in Bulgaria and RomanoNet from the Czech Republic.
On the first day, our group visited the social enterprise called Shuttle Knit in Wicklow (around a 1-hour drive from Dublin). Shuttle Knit started over 20 years ago as a partnership between the Traveller and settled communities, with the mission to improve the quality of life for Traveller Women and their families through social enterprise. Traditionally, Traveller women worked by selling door-to-door, at markets and fairs. However, recent Irish legislation has created barriers that prevent Traveller women from selling in the ways in which they did in the past, and so they needed to adapt and change.
One of Shuttle Knit’s goals is to bring inclusion into the labour market through social enterprise. The enterprise provides jobs and training to 11 women who are part of the local Travelling Community in Wicklow. The impact is that their staff have a secure income, and a sense of purpose and they learn a skill. They are empowered and become role models in their own community and contribute to the local economy.
Shuttle Knit is located in the CEART building in Wicklow, which is owned by Wicklow Travellers Group. The location is very much part of the community and thus feels like a “safe space” for Travellers, where everyone is welcome.
After this visit, the participants had an opportunity to take a walk in the picturesque valley of Glendalough, to visit the lake – all while discussing what the other ERGO members could learn from Pavee Point and the social enterprise projects, how they deal with similar challenges and how they could get replicate this model of work in their countries.
The next day the group visited several halting sites and residence points of Travellers in Dublin: Avila Park Finglas, Cara Park Coolock and St Joesph’s Halting Site Dunsink. Although some sites offer decent residential conditions, even they lack facilities for children to play, community work and further development for the young families.
However, the group also had a chance to see the sites with extremely bad living conditions, where according to the residents the Council is deliberately slow in taking any actions to improve these conditions.
In the afternoon the participants met in the office of Pavee Point Traveller & Roma Centre to learn more about the programmes and activities they run. Over the past thirty years, Pavee Point has an established track record in innovative and ground-breaking work using a collective community development approach to addressing Traveller & Roma issues and promoting Traveller & Roma rights.
Their programmes include Roma Civil Monitor, Education, Accommodation programme, Drug and Alcohol Programme, Ethnic Data Collection, Roma Project, Violence Against Women and finally Health project, including a special programme on Traveller Men – something which is an acute problem in many countries, but at the same time rarely included as a priority.
Our participants from the Czech Republic and Bulgaria and ERGO Secretariat members from Romania and Lithuania shared insights about the similarities in the situation in their countries regarding the health, evictions, general poverty and other pressing issues.
On the 27th everyone left for their respective countries, excited, and inspired. The exchange visit proved to be a success with our member organizations – some of them described it as one of the best they ever had! And the credit for this goes to Pavee Point for being amazing hosts and inspiration in their work for all of us.
ERGO plans to organize similar visits to other members in the next years. This type of event is very important for our work to learn about the problems faced by Roma in different countries and to learn how local organizations are trying to find solutions to these problems.