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Traveller children join in playtime

The children of travellers living in Cardiff have nowhere to play on their doorsteps. Both the city's main sites, Rover Way and Shirenewton, are isolated and poorly served by public transport.

But thanks to a play scheme run by Cardiff Gypsy and Travellers' Project, they can now take part in things that other children do. They are also mixing more with their local communities.

With both sites bereft of facilities, every activity entails a journey.

Money from funding body Cymorth covers, among other things, minibus transport.

Despite the initial wariness of some traveller parents, around 80 per cent of five to 15-year-olds, almost 250 children, are involved.

On offer there is everything from football to arts and crafts, plus vigorous activities such as abseiling, rock climbing and gorge walking.

"They get to experience things that otherwise they wouldn't have the chance to," said project administrator Marian Wilson.

"Parents took a lot of persuading. They're very protective, they didn't have things like this themselves."

Vinnie Francis runs the scheme day to day. He says families forced to stay on site because there is nowhere for them to move to can go through a terrible culture shock.

"We're about education through play," he said. "We want to get the children off site and into play centres. Children need exercise - it helps them to concentrate.

"We use community education centres and youth clubs. They can use the internet and take part in alternative education workshops, things such as arts, music and dance.

"In time we'd like to get kids to work with us as volunteers and go to college to learn supervision skills, first aid and youth work.

"Raising awareness about the children and the way they're seen in the media is my priority."

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