Clare Traveller Community Development Project celebrates success at launch of Strategic Plan
“True community development is about trusting communities to develop their own solutions and pathways.”
The above words were spoken by Minister Joe O’Brien, as the Clare Traveller Community Development Project (CDP) launched their Strategic Plan yesterday.
At CLDC, we couldn’t agree more, and we are really proud of what the Traveller CDP has accomplished. The launch was a momentous occasion, and a real opportunity to celebrate what has already been achieved, as we look forward to what comes next.
CLDC is the host organisation for the Traveller CDP, and we are also one of the members of the Steering Group that supports them. The Traveller CDP aims to improve living conditions, opportunities and achievement of human rights for Travellers in Clare, and this will be pursued through establishing and strengthening local alliances and, most importantly, through building effective Traveller leadership and a strong Traveller voice. The new Strategic Plan outlines the approach that will be taken by the project over the next three years.
The event was well attended, by people across many organisations and agencies as well as members of the Travelling community. Ciara Griffin, our CLDC coordinator who oversees the Traveller CDP, shared her excitement about the event and everything it represents:
“We [CLDC] have been supporting the hardest-to-reach communities, including Travellers, for many years, and it’s great to see the groundswell of support that was reflected at yesterday’s launch…it’s a really positive indication of progress. It’s not just that the project is in place, but that it’s doing really well! The collaboration between organisations is really strong, the Community Development Project model is really strong, The team behind the project is invested, and the CDP structure provides the support needed to develop Traveller leadership. The level of support coming from the Department is also very positive; they can see and are acknowledging all the work being done on the ground. This is a great example of where collaboration works.”
He added, “I’m very impressed by the obvious level of positive engagement and involvement by members of the Travelling community in the planning process of this strategic plan.”
A key piece highlighted by many voices present, was the importance of this project being Traveller-led. “The capacity of the Traveller community to take this and lead it, is absolutely, totally essential,” said Brian Dillon (left), who consulted on the plan, and outlined the strategy for us.
Bridgie Casey (below), who is the coordinator for the Traveller CDP and a member of the Travelling community, told us, “We’re happy that the community came together, to look at the areas of work that need to be done. The key areas are accommodation, health, education, and culture/identity. So we’re hoping to build that relationship with the agencies, [with our] Traveller leaders.”
An inspiring voice from the Traveller community came from Anne Marie Quilligan (left), who is a Traveller and a Social Work Master’s Student. She brought palpable appreciation and emotion to the room as she spoke about how she has been impacted by her time with Bridgie Casey (who is one of her mentors,) and these Traveller-led community development efforts. “[Bridgie] made me proud to be a Traveller. I used to question my identity…Bridgie is the reason I’m so proud.”
Anne Marie also spoke passionately about the pathway to change. “We need to get comfortable with being uncomfortable. Changes are not going to come without difficult conversations.” This was echoed by Brian DIllon, who said, “We have to face up to the fact that this isn’t easy. But I can see that it’s starting in Clare. What I can see happening in Clare, is that the Travellers are now being asked.”
Adding to the discussion around the plan being Traveller-led, our CEO Doirin Graham (right) spoke about what we can do in order to support this. She clearly addressed the responsibility we have as organisations (ourselves and others) that are working collaboratively around Community Development. She described the need for organisations to respond differently than we have in the past: “We have to be willing to change,” she said. “When voices come back and tell us what they need…we have to be willing to be more open, and to ask how we can change to meet those needs.”
The launch was an inspiring and positive blend of celebration, collaborative discussion, and truthful conversations about the challenges that will be faced on the path ahead. It is clear that the Traveller CDP is having an impact, and has been incredibly successful thus far since their inception. The CDP is one of seven pilot community development projects originally funded in 2021 – this has now grown to 10 projects – and the department is optimistic that these projects will be supported well into the future. (See https://cdpirl.ie/ for more information.)
The Minister finished with words of praise and support for everything that has already been accomplished, and the ongoing impact of the CDP:
“I’d like to commend Clare Traveller CDP, who are in their second year of the programme, for their hard work and commitment to date…The evidence is here, you are making a real difference to the lives of the Travelling communities you have supported since the start of this programme.”
With plenty of sunshine to boot, it was a wonderful morning all around!