Our good deed for the homeless
2017-01-15 14:22:41 -
Human Rights
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With thousands of people relying on emergency accommodation, Ireland has witnessed a dramatic rise in the numbers of homeless. Chiadika Uzor explains why she mobilised 20 of her peers studying across Ireland to fundraise for charity over the Christmas period

‘Homelessness is not a problem of Irish Government housing policy; it is a problem of individuals.” This statement in an article I read recently got me thinking long and hard about the concerning rate of homelessness in Ireland. 

In the wake of the recession, Ireland has witnessed a dramatic rise in the number of people deemed to be homeless. Current statistics estimate that in Dublin alone, over 5000 people rely on emergency accommodation and over 150 people are sleeping rough in the streets. The numbers are indeed shocking.

In my daily routine of walking to college or running errands in the city centre, I couldn’t help but notice the unusually high number of people covered up in sleeping bags on the streets. I even have some experience volunteering as a teenager in a centre for the homeless in Dublin, the Regina Coeli Hostel, yet somehow remained oblivious to the magnitude of the problem.

In the few months leading up to Christmas, I also couldn’t help but observe how the more privileged in society have responded to this devastating reality. There has been growing media coverage on television and radio talk shows and in newspapers, as well as campaigns creating awareness about this problem. However, I have been more impressed by the number of independent groups that have become active in trying to tackle the issue of homelessness.

Between November and December, I witnessed several young people from universities and even secondary schools across Dublin out in the city centre with the aim of making the day brighter for each homeless person they encountered. They would often approach the homeless in a kind and polite manner, ask how their day was going and offer them something hot to drink with a sandwich or a light meal. For the majority, this act of kindness immediately lit up their moods and put a smile on their faces.

These observations, together with the evident rise in awareness, motivated me to engage in an open discussion with my peers about homelessness in Ireland. I felt compelled to give back to my community, and in the spirit of Christmas, I thought it would only be appropriate to embark on this adventure with my close friends. Inevitably, these discussions led to the birth of Christmas for the Homeless, a group comprising young people of Nigerian and Brazilian descent from universities across Ireland.

We came to a decision collectively to select a homeless centre in Dublin where we would supply items that we felt would be most needed and appreciated by the residents. I suggested we donate to Regina Coeli, which currently houses 39 women and girls, including an expecting mother. I have fond memories of working at their kitchen and serving dinner to the residents, so for me this decision was a no-brainer. 

In addition, everyone in the group agreed to a contribution of €10 each and to help out with shopping for the items, which included toiletries, socks and some sweet treats. The items were packaged in Christmas gift bags for each individual resident. We also purchased some nappies and baby wipes for the expecting mother’s baby.

In the end, I can proudly say that all our hard work paid off. A total of €355 was raised as a result of our contributions. Impressively, some members donated double and even triple the agreed amount. Some of the donations also came from my classmates in medical school at Trinity College. I was deeply moved by their generosity and devotion to such an amazing cause. 

The items were delivered on 23 December to the staff of the residence who would traditionally distribute donated gifts to residents on Christmas morning. They were delighted with the work that we had done for people in great need.

Undoubtedly, this has been one of the most gratifying and rewarding projects in my life. The saying that big changes come from the little ones we make everyday has been made reality through this community work. It is amazing what mighty things a small group of people can achieve when they work well together. 

I believe that we have created a wonderful platform that will allow us to integrate better in our society and create a more unified and diversified Ireland. I feel that we need to play a more active role in this movement to combat homelessness. With that said, I would like to take this opportunity to extend my most sincere gratitude to all my friends who participated in this work. The encouragement and support I have received from all who participated has been tremendous and is an indication of their unreserved commitment and service to humanity in the future. Thank you for giving of yourself, your time, energy and money and for being a great example to others.

I also have an utmost regard for the staff at Regina Coeli and all those who work tirelessly to see that there is an end to homelessness in Ireland. Homelessness is not an issue that should be left to the Government alone to solve; it is a problem that can be tackled with individual input, too. 

With that in mind, I would encourage all young people to get up and be more active in their communities. Bringing a small group of friends together, setting goals and achieving them, no matter how small, can go a very long way in our society.

Chiadika Uzor is a fourth year medical student at Trinity College Dublin.
TAGS : Ireland Chiadika Uzor Homeless Charity Trinity College
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