Traveller friends challenge stereotypes by organising successful Covid-19 fundraiser

€2,000 raised to support frontline charities and services

Travellers fundraiser

Hugh Friel and Martin Mongan presenting a cheque to Hugh Sweeney of the We Care Letterkenny Foodbank on behalf of the Pavee Covid Challenge fundraiser

A fundraiser organised by two Traveller men to support frontline charities and services during the Covid-19 crisis raised over €2,000 in just days from members of the Traveller and settled communities in Donegal.
Hugh Friel and Martin Mongan initially set up the “Pavee Covid Challenge” fundraiser on Thursday, 30th April, as a GoFundMe page with a target of €1,000 to be donated to the We Care Letterkenny Foodbank.
By the following Monday not only had they exceeded the online target but they’d also collected over €1,200 in cash donations, bringing the final tally to €2,285.
“We’re amazed, meself and Martin, at the dedication and motivation of people contributing at this time of crisis,” Hugh said. “It’s a hard time for everybody to donate money because of uncertainty about our jobs and about society and about social welfare. We don’t know where things is at in terms of Covid-19. It’s lovely to see that the community spirit is there from the Traveller community and the settled community in donating that sort of money within a few days.”

The men added that most of the cash donations were from Travellers who saw the Facebook posts and videos about the fundraiser and messaged, texted, and rang to arrange pick-ups in accordance with social distancing guidelines.
“It’s brilliant,” Martin said. “It shows Travellers coming out in solidarity at this horrendous time of Covid-19 and donating to frontline charities that need help and support.”

Hugh Friel and Martin Mongan of the Pavee Covid Challenge fundraiser presenting a cheque to John Watson of Watson Hire to support the provision of hand sanitiser to Brentwood Manor Nursing Home, Donegal Women’s Domestic Violence Service, and St. Colmcille’s Hostel

In addition to donating €1,120 to the Foodbank, the Pavee Covid Challenge gave €500 to Pieta House and €335 to ChefAid Letterkenny. The final €330 was donated to Watson Hire to support the delivery of hand sanitiser to Donegal Women’s Domestic Violence Service, St. Colmcille's Hostel for homeless people, and Brentwood Manor Nursing Home in Convoy.
“What the guys did we really appreciate,” said Hugh Sweeney of the Foodbank. “At the moment now with the pandemic the food bank has gotten a lot busier. Some of our pick-up points have closed so we’re using funds raised to buy basics for our standard packages.”
“We are delighted and very grateful that Martin and Hugh selected ChefAid as a worthy cause,” said Cllr. Gerry McMonagle. “Martin done a couple of days delivering for us as well. Fair play to them, it shows great community spirit.”
And a post on the Watson Hire Facebook page reads “Big thanks to Martin and Hugh for their support” alongside a photo of the men presenting a cheque to owner John Watson.
In addition to the fundraiser Hugh and Martin organised a socially-distanced 2K “Walk for Hope” by Travellers on Saturday, 9th May. “We did it to show everybody that Travellers were in solidarity with the community and to send our condolences to the families of those who lost their lives to Covid-19,” Hugh said. “Enough participated that we reached the 100K mark.”
The men said the idea to organise the fundraiser and walk came about partly as a way to challenge negative stereotypes about Travellers, and Traveller men in particular. While both are employed as community workers at Donegal Travellers Project, their work on these two initiatives was entirely voluntary.

Negatively portrayed
“Traveller men are always being negatively portrayed in the wider society and by the media in negative ways, saying we don’t contribute, we don’t help, we don’t engage with society,” Martin said. “These initiatives were to show that Traveller men have a positive part to play in the community. We’re portrayed in ways that are an inaccurate reflection. People need to look at the positives instead of just the negatives.”
The men paid tribute to Maeve McIvor of Donegal Local Development Ltd. for the administrative assistance she provided with the Pavee Covid Challenge. Each night for the duration of the fundraiser the team posted a video on Facebook of either Hugh or Martin reading out the names of every cash and online donor for that day in order to both thank and provide accountability to them all.
Donors included Letterkenny resident Bridget Boyle, who gave money herself and also collected money from other members of her family for contribution to the fundraiser.
“I did it to help people out, because there’s a lot of people struggling out there because of this virus,” Bridget said. “And there’s a lot of people homeless and using the food bank as well. To help people, that’s what it was, just to help people out.”

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