Leeds GATE

Working to improve the quality of life for Gypsies and Travellers

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Leeds GATE celebrates ten years!

Helen Jones's picture
By Helen Jones |  February 28, 2013 |

Mary Kate at ChristmasLeeds Gypsy and Traveller Exchange will be ten years old this year. That’s ten years of talking, thinking, planning and reflecting, form filling, meeting and greeting, worrying, and sometimes flat out crying.

There has also been much more laughter than we might anticipate among people whose noses are so close to the grindstone of injustice and inequity. So, this is the time to rest on our laurels, back slapping and saying ‘job well done’ to each other?  No of course not.

There is a gentle satisfaction though.  We are here despite the full complement of cynics and detractors, and the isolation and exclusion (more correctly ‘failure to include’) that is the feature of being a hard pressed ‘unpopular cause’.  Bringing in the money has never been easy but of course in recent years it has become a constant challenge with very few breathing spaces.

We have survived, indeed, thanks to the generosity of everyone involved, we have gently thrived. 

Car seatPeople who know Leeds GATE are aware that the last couple of years particularly have been tough. No-one who knew our colleague Kathleen Morrison before the news of her illness would have guessed we would be marking the first anniversary of her death on 6th March. Kathleen was a person who grabbed life with both hands and made the most of it. She was a fighter who overcame tremendous difficulties, often with a huge smile on her face and a generous word to others. We know she has left us the challenge, and the encouragement, to follow her example. 

So the first few months of this year is a good time for us to be reflecting on how we got here, planning events to celebrate this tenth year and looking forward to the next ten years.  On the basis of “Why have only one ‘birthday’, when we can have a whole year of being ten?”, we are working up a series of open days, seminars, and of course, parties.  Keep your eye on the website for news of events, blogs and guest blogs. Don’t be shy to look us up on facebook or twitter @LeedsGATE. 

So that’s enough, for now, of planning, what about reflection?  The overall aim of Leeds GATE is to improve quality of life for Gypsies and Travellers in Wes t Yorkshire. We have  agreed the most useful indicators  of improving quality of life are about having secure homes (even while ‘travelling)’; having good health;  being able to access education, employment, financial independence; being socially included and joining in.

There are big questions we will be asking ourselves about the impact Leeds GATE has had. The headline news doesn’t look all that great.  Educational outcomes, life expectancy, employment and inclusion remain as major issues for Gypsy and Traveller people.  For all the forms filled, conversations had, travel and trouble, how much difference can we really say we have had?  How much credit can we take for the successes we have enjoyed? How much responsibility should we take for the lack of progress?

These are vital questions for any ‘funded’ organisation to ask.  We are able to do our work because charitable trusts and statutory bodies agree with us that the situation of Gypsy and Traveller people needs to change.  Our values remind us that ‘GATE is open and honest’.  We will be asking ourselves these questions.  And we will be answering them in public.  Our members and our funders deserve nothing less.

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