IT was during Covid that the Rev William Hayes knocked on the door of the Offaly Traveller Movement and asked if they needed anything. That one kind deed was not forgotten by the group and so when the time came for the Local Traveller Initiative (LTI) to take on a new project, they approached Rev Hayes and asked if he wanted help with painting or other jobs around the Presbyterian Church on High Street in Tullamore. Needless to say, Rev Hayes welcomed the gesture with open arms.
Last Thursday morning, June 1st the church was a hive of activity as members scraped paint off the railings surrounding the church and members of the ‘Melting Pot’ Offaly Traveller Men’s Shed group, were busy repairing flower containers and planning other tasks. Unfortunately the church was broken into a while ago and so a lot of repairs to doors had to be undertaken by the Men’s Shed.
Lorna Middleton is the LTI coordinator and she explained that the LTI is a specific part of Offaly Traveller Movement. It is funded by the Laois Offaly Education and Training Board (LOETB). Students undertaking the painting and repair work at the church are on a Level 3 employment skills programme. As part of the course, they must undertake a community project.
”We have a week devoted to this project but if it’s not finished we will come back,’‘ she explained.
Lorna took us around to the back of the church where she showed off a freshly painted and repaired door and then to a garden area. She said the garden had been covered in samplings which had fallen from overhanging trees. The area was not suitable for use by the children attending the playschool there. Rev Hayes was reluctant to use weed killer as he was concerned about the children.
So members of the LTI pulled the samplings up by hand and replaced them with bark. ”It took us a day and a half, but the weather was good and there were a few of us. So between chatting and laughing we didn’t feel it,” Lorna said. Celine McInerney is the LTI assistant coordinator and Ian McDonagh is LTI support worker.
Celine spoke of the importance of the scheme for Travellers. ”The majority of Travellers do not go on to secondary or third level education. There is a really low percentage that stay in secondary school or go on to do their Leaving Cert. The LTI local initiative training course gives Travellers who have gone out of the education system, and are not in any employment, the opportunity to come back into a Traveller based organisation,” she said. Celine said some of them would have been on other LTI’s in the past but they didn’t fit in or they felt it didn’t suit them. ”The fact that it is an LTI organisation and there is a settled person who is coordinator and travellers as their peer workers and we work alongside each other, seems to be a great success,” she added.
”LTI is there to support the young people in getting them back into education. It’s about building relationships and hopefully they will progress to Level 4, maybe Level 5 and eventually maybe go on to third level.” Celine is hopeful that the course will encourage the young Travellers to get back into education and eventually gain them employment.
”We really appreciate the work they have been doing,” said Rev Hayes. ”These young folks have been wonderful, they are really putting their back into it. The Melting Pot Men’s Shed group have repaired doors and worked on the front door,” he said. Painting on the inside of the church is also on the cards. When the Tribune left, the sun was shining, music was playing and everyone was in high spirits. But more importantly the work was getting done.
Camilla McLoughlin The Tullamore Tribune 8th June 2023