I’m Aoife Cooke, the coordinator of the St Margaret’s Women’s Group Local Training Initiative for the last three and a half years. I’m moving on from St Margaret’s in the next few weeks to a hotter climate, but in many ways I am very sad to leave! I feel so proud and awed by all the hard work and commitment shown by the trainees this year. I have learnt so much from these women and I genuinely feel privileged that I have been able to work here at St Margaret’s over the years. Here are the few words and thanks I gave at the Women’s Group graduation, Wednesday June 29th.
I want to begin by thanking all our tutors at St Margaret’s and at the same time give you all a taste of the courses we have been involved in this year. Thank you to Máire from Global Action Plan who has showed us our green fingers. Thank you to Lána, Elaine, Mary, Martina, Duana, Breege and Antoinette from youngballymun who supported the group in developing skills to educate children as parents. To Alice and Madeline, our swimming tutors, Gerry from the Poppintree Youth Centre and Antonia who forced us all into runners and tracksuits and had us competing in badminton tournaments by the end of the year.
To Seoidín who facilitated the group on the Nomadic Mapping Art Project, which we exhibited in the Ballymun Civic Offices for Traveller Focus Week and again in the Wood Quay Civic Offices as part of Social Inclusion Week. To Denise who taught us how to make homemade face masks, amongst many things, and about personal care and presentation. To Shane and Joni from the Latin America Solidarity Centre who designed, developed and delivered a course with us on issues around food sovereignty. This involved a trip to the new and old Moore St where the group was asked to buy foods they didn’t even recognise and figure out how to cook a meal using it! Nobody said it had to taste nice, but we did it!
Special thanks to Vera, Claire and Catherine from the Ballymun Adult Read and Write Scheme for their commitment and enthusiasm. The trainees always appreciate their friendliness, approachability and the time they take to support adult learning in our centre. Without them this course couldn’t run.
We were involved in many once-off events, from a conflict resolution workshop, to meeting Jesse Jackson in Pavee Point to Safe Talk Suicide Awareness, but there’s too many to mention here. One thing I will mention is last week’s collaboration with Near90FM radio station where we presented and participated in a panel discussion on the representation of Travellers in the movies and issues of discrimination. This will be aired between October and December as part of a series called ‘Equal Billings.’
Finally, congratulations to each of the women in the group for their flexibility and willingness to try so many new things and new experiences. In the individual and course evaluations over the last few days, we all agree it’s been a great year. Everyone feels they have gotten something important from the course. This is because each woman took hold of an opportunity and gave so much to it; their time, their energy, their enthusiasm. Trainees’ own evaluations told me they can now read and write better, they’ve learnt new skills and that they had new and enjoyable experiences. But what all the women in the group can be the most proud of is the confidence they have developed; to stand up in front of a group and talk, to give opinions and to have a voice. Well done!