“Any organisation that has you on the books will be enriched by your presence there.”
Ryan Tubridy perfectly summed up his 25-minute interview with Kathleen Lawrence, who eloquently described her experience of overcoming bullying and reaching impressive heights.
Kathleen joined Ryan to talk about her life as a traveller and how far she has come since leaving school at the age of fifteen having been bullied and discriminated against.
‘I was bullied by students in my class, I was discriminated against by teachers, it was just an awful experience’.
Kathleen was never given the opportunity to learn Irish in school as a child. She told Ryan that looking back on it now, she felt that teachers didn’t see her doing anything with her life.
‘When everyone else was learning Irish, I was given a colouring book and told ‘you don’t need to learn Irish’
At the time, Kathleen didn’t understand how big an impact this would have on her life, she wanted to become a teacher but without Irish that wasn’t an option.
Kathleen married at the age of 18, but that came to an end at the age of 26 and it was at this time that Kathleen decided she was going to make something of her life. Kathleen took up a jobbridge internship, she told Ryan that it was ‘not pleasant’, she never had a mentor and the job she was doing was, in fact, maternity cover. But everything changed after a job had been offered and her employers discovered that she was from the travelling community. Kathleen spoke of being given work for a team of five, rather than what would be acceptable for one person. She felt like she was being pushed out as a result of her background.
Soon after Kathleen applied to go to college and study in Maynooth University where she opted for a Bachelor of Arts, with a big plan of doing a Masters afterwards.
Last November, while in her final year at Maynooth she received an email about the Washington Ireland programme. She applied and became an intern on Capitol Hill where she worked closely with congressman Brendan Boyle. Kathleen describes her time in Washington as a life changing experience. Kathleen recalls a photograph being taken on the steps of Capitol Hill and thinking ‘I’m starting here on Monday’, saying she had to pinch herself on several occasions.
‘I actually made friendships with proper settled people… and I was so wary to make friends with settled people because I was afraid of discrimination’.
Kathleen still works with Pavee Point part time and next year she hopes to do her Masters in Human Rights and Criminal Justice.
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