Managing Director

Sandra McDonagh

“To live a meaningful life and to serve mankind” is the axiom that has been the guiding principle throughout my life so far. For me, life should be guided by a pursuit of knowledge, and equality for all human beings, with particular emphasis on the poor, vulnerable, marginalised, and disadvantaged members of society. Everyone has a right to a good quality of life.

My experience as a Traveller woman has inspired me to become a social worker. As a member of the Traveller Community with distinct cultural values, traditions, and customs, representing a minority of 0.5% of the Irish population, I observe how my ethnicity suffers at the hands of ethnocentrism, living with rejection, discrimination, and equality. Since my childhood, I have been greatly moved by the pathetic conditions that Travellers and the less well-off members of society experience. My heart sinks when I see a person begging on the street, a person shivering due to the cold weather because he or she does not have proper warm clothes, and the appalling conditions that Travellers are subjected to lining in halting sites with no running water or sanitary facilities.

It is a sad but true fact that millions of people suffer from malnutrition and lack of even the basic necessities of life. I understand that it is not possible for me to eradicate this disparity among human beings; however, I strongly believe that by helping a person to get an education, by helping disadvantaged persons, by helping older people, and by helping any vulnerable or distressed person I may come across, I can fulfil my responsibility of being a member of this civilised human society. 

My personal life experience has put me in contact with many people from different geographic and socio-economic backgrounds and has provided me with the opportunity to provide care and support to those who need it most. From providing a caring and secure home for foster children, to being a leader and mentor for young members of a Youth Club, to fulfilling my duties as a Community Care Assistant, all have proved to be both challenging and rewarding.

The turning point in my life came when I realised that my interest in social work should not only be an interest, but the mission of my life. It was at this point I returned to full time education as a mature student, graduated from NUI Maynooth with a B Soc Sci in Social Science, and a Masterson in Social Work from Trinity College Dublin. Social work gives meaning to my life, which is to serve mankind selflessly. It allows me to advocate, protect, and assist people with any issues that may occur throughout their lives. 

In 2019, I took up the position of Managing Director with Offaly Traveller Movement, an organisation working from an ethos underpinned by the principles of human rights, social justice, equality, empowerment, and collective action. I am proud to be part of an organisation that challenges the racism and discrimination experienced by my community and which strives to effect real change in the lives of Travellers in Co Offaly.

I believe that Travellers must have a voice in all the spaces where decision -making takes place and no longer be excluded or left behind. To quote Margaret Mead, ‘Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.’

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