We lost our hearts to a Galway girl Travellers’ Voice always encourages readers to share their stories with others. We also encourage them to make sure their voices are heard and show others what makes them great in their own unique way. In this article, we tell the story of a young Traveller girl who hopes to make her future a very successful one. This month we profile 17-old-Michaela Cawley from Galway. Michaela stayed in school, finished her Leaving Cert and applied for college, getting accepted to do a beautician’s course in Galway Technical Institute (GTI). However, feeling she would be better off waiting until she is 18, Michaela has decided to defer her course for one year. Although Michaela is an only child, she doesn’t feel like she is as she has been brought up with her mother’s brothers and sisters who have always classed her as their little sister and likewise Michaela classes them as her family. Sadly, Michaela tells us that her father passed away when she was only 13 and when she was in her first year at secondary school, however, her dad’s legacy stayed with this clever Galway girl, as she tells us, “My father was always so eager to keep me in school as was my mother so I made a promise to myself that if I never did anything in life I would stay in school to make them proud of me,” says Michaela. Adding, “I know daddy would be so happy and proud to know I have been accepted into college so this motivates me even more to make sure I go.” “I have always been interested in beauty, I have done my own makeup and eyebrows for years and it felt great to be able as when we were growing up we would face a lot of racism and discrimination. It wasn’t always direct to my face or anything but the looks and sly remarks that people would give were very bad. Even when I was trying to get a work experience placement, I had to take down my hair and take out my loop earrings so I would look as plain as possible in trying to secure the work experience. I didn’t like doing this as it wasn’t me and I felt very out of place so I was delighted to hear I was accepted to the college as me and not as anyone else.” Says Michaela, who explains that the way we are all so family orientated and follow our Traveller culture and the traditional ways we have all make her very proud but everything about being a Traveller girl makes her proud, saying, “I would never deny who I am.” Michaela still wants to marry young, perhaps at around age 20 but she still wants to have her own independence and make her own money each week so she doesn’t have to rely on a man to do it for her. “I will still do everything any Traveller girl will do; I will also go to college and make a better life for myself. I don’t want to have to depend on the dole or anyone for anything. I want to be able to say that I made my future better for myself and no one else had to do it for me. I also want to have children when I do get married but I don’t want to rush into it. I would love to travel to different places with my husband first and enjoy our time before we have children but it’s definitely something I do want when the time comes.” Michaela’s advice to young Travellers is that they should “stay in school and get their Leaving Cert. They might not think it is important now but if they go looking for a job or anything they will need this behind them. Some Travellers can get ashamed because they are in school but I think no one should ever be ashamed because it is important for everyone to have an education and also it is a great achievement for them to have. I don’t think they should rush into marriage at 16; it’s too young and they will spend years of their lives looking after their husbands and children so they should try to enjoy life before they do get married. Make the most of your life and do what is best for you is my advice.