Leeds Gypsies and Travellers pulling together for charity this Christmas

11 December 2023
Leeds GATE

Gypsy and Traveller people across Leeds have come together to donate to multiple charities this Christmas, to offer 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, have been supporting a call-out from one of their members Kathleen ‘Suzie’ Doherty, to contribute food, toys and essentials to local churches and foodbanks.

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.

The donation of food and essential items was made to St Nicholas Catholic Church Gipton LS9, to be disseminated by the church to any local family in need, with items given by various members of the Gypsy and Traveller communities.

Leeds GATE
Father Craig Fitzpatrick (l) from St Nicholas Catholic Church, Gipton, welcomes a donation from Leeds GATE members (pictured GATE's Rachel Trafford (r) and Louise Murphy (centre) (c) Cath Muldowney

“Many Gypsy and Traveller people do similar every year.” Kathleen states.

“People getting involved brings the community together, because sometimes Gypsy and Traveller 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 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 Churches for local families across Armley and Wortley.

“It’s great what Reg, one of the residents of the site and a parishioner of ours, has done” said Father Neil Bryne.

“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. 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 the community enough. We are blessed to have them as part of our community.”

Leeds GATE
Leeds GATE office (c) Leeds GATE

Gypsy and Traveller young people who attend youth groups at Leeds GATE each week, also decided to use their Christmas youth groups to focus on charity. They created gift boxes for young people and bought items from the Dunelm Wish Tree, for children who could otherwise go without gifts.

“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 Senior Youth Worker at Leeds GATE Grace Cunningham.

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 GATE/TT News

(Top photo: Father Craig Fitzpatrick (l) from St Nicholas Catholic Church, Gipton, welcomes a donation from Leeds GATE members (pictured GATE's Rachel Trafford (r) and Louise Murphy (centre) (c) Cath Muldowney)