The Can Caravan
Richard O’Neill and Cindy Kang
What a wonderfully uplifting and affirming contemporary story is the latest one by Romani storyteller Richard O’Neill.
Janie, an imaginative child, lives on a travellers’ site with her mother and her grandfather. Also living among them is her grandfather’s friend Mrs Tolen, whose caravan has seen better days.
At school one day Janie’s teacher announces that the class are to visit a can recycling plant and Janie is able to respond to his question about the history of recycling by relating it to what members of the travelling community have done for centuries. Back on the site, she’s eager to tell Mrs Tolen about the visit only to discover that she’s had a fall and is in hospital with a broken hip.
A couple of days later, Janie goes to see Mrs Tolen in the hospital and hears that environmental health inspectors have deemed her caravan unfit for living in. She is determined that rather than the old lady having to move out, she, her friends and other members of her community will restore her old caravan.
The visit to the can recycling plant further motivates and inspires Janie
and back home she can hardly contain herself with excitement as she tells her Mum and grandfather about her plans. The same thing happens at school next day where she receives many offers of help from her classmates on behalf of family members. The recycling plant agrees to donate recycled metal sheets and the community collect cans to raise the rest of the money needed. Then under Janie’s leadership everybody sets to work rebuilding the caravan.
Eventually Mrs Tolen has a wonderful surprise when she is able to move into her recycled trailer – her “Can Caravan” as she names it joyfully.
What this community achieves is an inspiration to us all: the loyalty, determination, resilience and ability to adapt inherent in the Traveller peoples should make those of us who are all too ready to rush out and buy new things, ashamed of such consumerist attitudes. Cindy Kang’s bright, realistic illustrations underline the community spirit and there’s a final aluminium recycling flow chart that also includes some interesting facts about this metal.