My name is John Parnell, I am a mature student studying social science and social work in Trinity College in Dublin. I have just completed a nine week work placement with the Meath Travellers Workshop (MTW) in Navan. While I was based in Navan my time was split between MTW and the Involve youth Group in Trim, summer work placement is a requirement as part of completing my course.
Last year I worked in Beaufort House Nursing Home in Navan and in September we will be sent on another and the same in 2016. The idea is to give the student as wide an experience as possible through working in varied environments prior to completing the course and taking up employment.
I really enjoyed working in MTW and met some very interesting people. There is a good team in MTW under the leadership of Michal McDonagh who manages the centre on a day to day basis, Michael holds a university degree and has unique knowledge regarding Traveller history and culture. He is backed up Anne Hyland who is the full time admin worker, you could equate to the Roy Keane of MTW as everything passes through her, Peter Martin is the full time CE supervisor who ensures everything is running smoothly in all the various projects MTW are involved in and is responsible for over twenty CE staff being taught a variety of new skills through MTW. Ellen (Nell) McDonagh, Michael’s wife works part time looking after community and cultural issues as does Sinead Burke who has just finished her time in office as the Mayor of Navan, Sinead is the information officer.
Sinead is currently involved in promoting the fact that Meath Travellers Workshop is FIFTY YEARS OLD this year and celebrations are planned from August onwards to mark this fantastic achievement. LOOK OUT FOR DETAILS. The celebration will reach their peak in November with a Celebration ball in the Headfort Arms Hotel in Kells with a great night of culture and entertainment promised, just a wee plug, tickets are available from Anne in the MTW office in Navan.
However MTW are involved in much more than this.
MTW offer a wide range of child care services managed by Marie McDonagh. The workshops also provide community services, employment and enterprise training, primary health care programmes, youth work and the living history programme promotin Traveller history and culture throughout Ireland and displaying skills such as tin-smithing by Tom who is a master craftsman in producing goods by hand made out of nothing but tin.
It was hard to leave MTW at the end of my placement as I made many new friends and it was a great experience working there.
I would recommend it to anyone wishing to work as a volunteer to help in the community or to any student like me who wants to learn about different aspects of culture and history within Irish society.
Well for me its back to the books now, just received a list of three we have to have read before going back in September. One thing is for sure, I learned a lot through MTW and will not lose touch with my new friends.