Gypsy and Traveller people from Catholic parishes across Leeds have come together to donate to multiple charities this Christmas, offering their support to people who are homeless and struggling with the cost-of-living crisis.
Leeds Gypsy and Traveller Exchange (Leeds GATE), a member-led community charity for 20 years, has been supporting a call-out from one of the members, Kathleen ‘Suzie’ Doherty, to contribute food, toys and essentials to local churches and food banks. The generous donations were given by Suzie, along with Linda Barker, Kathleenanne Boswell, Danny Connors, Grace Cunningham, Louise Murphy, Tracey Pattison, Kirsty Rourke, Rachel Trafford and various members of Leeds’ Gypsy and Traveller communities. The items were delivered to Fr Craig Fitzpatrick at St Nicholas Catholic Church in Gipton and will be distributed to any local families in need of help at this time.
To Suzie, giving to charity is an annual tradition:
‘I donate to various churches around Leeds every year, such as Christ the King in Wortley and Holy Family Church. It’s important to help people and being religious, specifically Catholic, in the Bible Jesus helped people with the little He had, so it’s important to try and help others even if you can only give something small.’
‘Many Gypsy and Traveller people do similar every year,’ says Suzie. ‘People getting involved brings the community together, because sometimes Gypsy and Traveller people can feel separated and isolated. In a world that is seemingly more individualistic, Christmas is a time to think about the other person. Charities such as Leeds GATE and community members doing these collections are vital in supporting local families over winter. It’s wonderful to know these charities are based locally and to connect with them.’
Residents of Cottingley Springs Traveller Site in Leeds also organised a food and toy collection for Christ the King and Holy Family Catholic Parish to help local families across Armley and Wortley.
Parish Priest Father Neil Byrne said, ‘It’s great what Reg, one of the residents of the site and a parishioner of ours, has done. Since last year it’s been very evident families were struggling with cost of living and the community wanted to support other people who may be struggling too. They donated food parcels, toys and financial donations to help support fuel payments last year and are doing so again this year. When they put the message out, so many people gave we actually had to tell them to stop as I had nowhere to store it all! Working with and knowing members of the community for as long as I have, Gypsies and Travellers are misunderstood as a community. We as a parish so appreciate and are overwhelmed by the community’s generosity. I cannot thank them enough. We are blessed to have them as part of our community!’
Gypsy and Traveller young people who attend youth groups at Leeds GATE each week, also decided to focus on charity this Christmas. They created gift boxes for young people and bought items from the Dunelm Wish Tree for children who could otherwise go without presents.
‘Part of the money used to pay for the gifts was money our young people have raised, so I am super proud of them for using it to ensure other children also get a gift at Christmas,’ said Grace Cunningham, a Senior Youth Worker at Leeds GATE.
One young person said, ‘I felt so proud as we almost emptied the wish tree of item requests! It was also nice to be told by people shopping how we inspired them to do the same by doing such a kind gesture. I think it was good to do something so kind for children, but also made me appreciate what I have and be grateful for what I get in the future.’
Leeds Gypsy and Traveller Exchange, more commonly known as Leeds GATE is a brave and innovative community organisation led by its Gypsy and Traveller members. It has been operating for 20 years from Cross Green in Leeds and is now working across West Yorkshire. Leeds GATE’s aim is to improve quality of life for Gypsy and Traveller people, and works for strategic change across five main areas including homes, health, education, employment and inclusion.
This heart-warming news of Christmas generosity and the accompanying photographs were sent to us by Rachel Trafford – and to find out more, visit the Leeds GATE website: leedsgate.co.uk or social media @LeedsGATE and @leeds_gate
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