Our project kicked off last February when we attended the first transnational meeting in Cluj, Romania in February 2015, to meet the team in the other participating countries and to learn from one another about the contexts they were working in.
When we returned to Dublin, we met with the Irish Traveller Movement and told them about the project and that we would like to work with them on it. They were very supportive and pointed us in the direction of people we could link in with.
We spent these first few months gathering material about the lives of Roma and Travellers in Ireland, and searching especially on material that was written about children's experiences in these communities, on the experiences of minority ethnic children in general in Ireland, and about children's rights and participation experiences in Ireland. We compiled a draft outline reading list (l/ctrl/Home/Lit_review_Ireland_Roma_Travel.docx] /ctrl/Home/Lit_review_Ireland_Roma_Travel_3.docxand took stock of what has been published in this area. There are some excellent reports written here in Ireland, but very few that focus on the perspectives and experiences of children and young people in Roma and Traveller communities.
One of the goals of PEER is to build capacity and help others to use participatory methods (Participatory Action Inquiry) with children and young people in marginalised communities. We conducted training events with adults (NGO's, teachers, university students who are studying the area of children's rights and participation in UCD) in April and May 2015. Our goal was to develop understanding of ways of working with children and young people that is exploratory and respectful and enables them to express what they feel is important in their lives. We used this to think through the development of the training manual we are working on as part of the PEER project - what works in it, what does not, what can be further developed. We are hoping this will be especially useful for teachers in schools who are looking to work more inclusively with children from the Roma and Traveller communities. We wanted to learn what the children have to say about improving their experiences in school, as well as in the wider community.
Because we are going to work with children over the course of this project, we needed to secure ethics approval from UCD. Our application to the Human Ethics Research Committee, in the College of Social Sciences and Law was successful and was granted in April 2015. Once we had this we were in a position to begin! We made contact with the principals of primary schools and identified groups of Traveller children that we could collaborate with. We then contacted the parents of these children, as well as the children themselves to secure permission to participate.
In May and June we began to work intensively with 25 Traveller children (in three groups ) in 'exploratory workshops'. These children are all aged between 10 - 12 years. We held 6 sessions with each group, supported by their teachers and by Traveller assistants. We spoke with the children and explained to them what the project was about. Over the course of the first two sessions, the children drew pictures of their communities and shared what they liked about them as well as the people they loved. We agreed that one good way to find out and explore the challenges and opportunities they encounter in their lives, was for them to take photographs of the 'good' things and the 'bad'' things in their communities. We gave the children disposable cameras for a weekend and invited them to take their pictures. In the following sessions, we invited the children to select five photos from those they had taken, that would represent for them what is 'good' and 'bad' in their lives and that they would be comfortable sharing with the rest of the group. We had lots of photos to chose from and explore. We took these photos and made posters [link] so we could look at them together. We evaluated how this process was for sharing ideas about what matters in children's lives. So far we have identified the following issues that are of concern to the children in our exploratory groups:
What is important to the children: What needs to change:
1. Activities 1. Discrimination and prejudice
2. Family 2. Poor housing
3. Friends 3. Rubbish in the environment
4. Buying and Selling 4. Having a choice/say
In October 2015 we presented about the PEER project to the Garret Fitzgerald Autumn School, in the College of Social Sciences and Law in UCD. The Irish Human Rights Commissioner - Ms Emily Logan, chaired the session and there was a lot of interest in hearing what the children in the PEER project had to say about their lives. We called this 'making the invisible visible' - because we hope the work the children are doing will open the eyes of adults - teachers, NGO"s, policy makers, other children and young people - into how 25 Traveller children see the world and hope to make a positive change to it, supported by others who can help and facilitate.
Over the coming months we will work with the children, their teachers and NGO''s in looking at how we can work with some of these issues and learn what 'works' and what doesn't work, and what this means for Traveller children expressing their views and changing things that matter to them .
In December 2015 we attended the second meeting of the wider PEER group in Barcelona and shared our experiences of the project to date and what each of us will be doing next.
In February 2016 we attended the National Traveller and Roma Inclusion Strategy (NTRIS) Consultation meeting in Dublin. The function of the NTRIS will be to act as the Government’s main policy tool for ensuring and promoting Traveller and Roma inclusion.
In May 2016 one of the PEER groups visited the county council offices to meet the social inclusion team. The purpose of this trip was to see what supports and services are available for Traveller and Roma children in the community and how the PEER group can ensure that they are involved in community initiatives and projects.
Also in May 2016 a PEER Group showcased their storyboard of traveller pictures and photos to their class and to their wider school. This was completed so that they could show pride in Traveller culture and to make people aware of the importance of understanding cultural diversity.
In June 2016 a PEER group met with local councillors to discuss issues which the felt needed addressing in their local community. The councillors listened to their suggestions and have made further promises to the group which they intend to follow up on. They have also agreed to arrange a visit for the group to the mayor's office where they can discuss and debate issues in the locality- issues such as litter in the local playground, the closure of a homework club catering to traveller children in the locality.
Also in June 2016 a PEER group used photographs that they took during their time in PEER to organise an end of year celebration. The group wanted to use the photographas as part of their graduation ceremony from primary school. They felt that it was necessary to highlight the good times that they had in school and how they wanted these to continue.
In September 2016 a fifth PEER group made an action plan for diversity in their secondary school! Through this action plan the group are aiming to get a 'yellow flag' for interculturalism, equality and diversity in their school. This can only happen if they can work together to create change in their school.