FOR some people in our society, the day to day problems the more fortunate of us experience seem like a luxury — minor in the grand scheme of things. Most of us enjoy our days and have a safe, warm place to call home. We have somewhere to sleep and somewhere to be.
Some of us are without any of these things. The problems they face day to day are unimaginable to most of us. Some of us have no where safe to rest, make a cup of tea, wash or sleep.
This winter the cold months have met us. Boiling the kettle and leaving the the car running on stand by in the morning is the latest habit added to my morning jobs. A chance to tackle the cold. Gloves and scarves, jackets and seat warmers are being enjoyed. This is the preparation we make for one small journey and five minutes out in the cold.
Imagine spending a night or several on the streets with little shelter and nowhere to call home. This is the reality for our most vulnerable in Ireland at present. What is most devastating is that children are subjected to this as well. Thoughts of what Santa will bring are left for the fortunate kids. Many of Ireland’s children will be wondering where Santa will bring their presents.
As a player who is part of a team and a community I know the value of looking out for others, for putting an arm around someone when they are feeling low and lending an ear when someone feels hard done by or is going through a challenging time. It benefits the collective when everyone is happy. After all it is said that “We are only as strong as the sum of our parts.” How can we say that the economy is thriving when we have the most vulnerable on the streets in dire need of help. So much so that it is literally a matter of life or death. I was desperately upset to hear that two people died in Dublin recently, within 48 hours of one another, and a woman also died on the streets of Cork, just last week. It seems that we have reached a state of emergency in our homeless crisis and with colder weather still ahead of us this winter it imperative that we all come together to do everything we can to help those who are vulnerable.
It is impossible to imagine what some of our fellow Irish men and women are experiencing as they try to cope with and endure homelessness. Next weekend, we have an opportunity to put ourselves temporarily in their position. Groups of current and past inter-county players are coming together in different cities around Ireland, as well as in New York City, to raise funds and highlight the urgent need for something to get done to tackle this problem both in the short and long term.
Being involved in the GAA, as a former player in a voluntary organisation, has taught me the value of giving back and contributing towards causes that need attention and community support to endure. It was with this sentiment that I joined the steering group that is currently involved in a campaign to raise awareness and funds for the less fortunate in the hope that the community spirit which has allowed the GAA to grow and thrive can be harnessed to help those in need of community support. It may also give a boost to those in a situation of homelessness by showing that they haven’t been forgotten and that they aren’t invisible.
I don’t think one night out in the cold will do anything but give us perspective and insight into some of the hardships that the homeless face daily. I don’t know how it feels not to have a home or how it feels to not be safe, but I hope that spending a night outdoors will help me to understand some of what others are experiencing.
Our homeless crisis is a multifaceted issue and it will take more than community to solve. But what we can do as a community is make small changes together to be understanding, empathic and generous with our time or our resources to make even the smallest improvements for those who are suffering in this crisis.
This Christmas, I hope we can all be more appreciative of what we have. Let’s start with the little things, let’s make eye contact or share a cup of tea with those who are exposed to the cold. Let’s remember that we are all human and this is a humanitarian issue. Let’s think of the simple things we can each do for someone in need this Christmas. I don’t have the solutions but I do know that tackling the problem in a meaningful, personal way is the start of long-term change. Let’s make it everyone’s problem instead of someone else’s problem.
If you are in Cork on December 16, please spare a few euro and contribute to the bucket. A group of players representing many more will be on the Courthouse steps offering their time to help others. A few euro and a gesture of support will go a long way to showing unity to our fellow citizens.
ABOUT GAELIC FOR CHANGE
A group of current and former inter-county football, hurling and camogie players who are passionate about making a difference have united under the umbrella of ‘Gaelic Voices for Change’. The new player-led social movement is made up of volunteers from the four provinces who have been meeting weekly for the past two months.
The group, which is supported by the GPA and WGPA, feel strongly that the GAA is based on community values and that they want to use their voice to support the most vulnerable in society. They have identified the housing and homeless crisis as a priority area to focus on but are also keen to look at areas such as mental health, gambling and racism.
During their research the group met with leading experts in the area of homelessness. They say they are alarmed by ISPCC reports that Ireland now has the highest child homelessness rate in Europe and that, according to Focus Ireland, there has been a 24% increase in homelessness in the past year.
The group were involved with the Show Racism The Red Card initiative but attention is now turned towards an all-Ireland solidarity sleep-out’ from 6pm to 6am on Saturday December 16 that is designed to draw attention to the homelessness crisis, raise funds, and call for action. Already over 150 county players and past players have signed up for the sleep-out which will take place in a number of locations. People can also support by donating online at www.gaelicvoicesforchange.com. All funds raised will go to homeless charities including the Peter McVerry Trust, the Simon Communities, Focus Ireland and the Capuchin Day Centre. Find the group on Twitter and Instagram @GaelicVoices4Ch and on Facebook at ‘Gaelic Voices For Change’.