By Cian Molloy - 10 June, 2019
With secondary school students across the country in the middle of the leaving certificate and junior certificate exams, the Society of St Vincent de Paul has issued a reminder about how education can help children escape poverty.
In calling for people to assist its work, the SVP has published a typical example of the type of child that needs help: a 12-year-old, Aoife, who drops her younger half-brothers off to school every day but only gets to go to school herself once or twice a week, three times a week if she is really lucky.
When Aoife’s mother died, she was put in the care of her father and her stepmother, neither of whom she had met before. From that day onwards, Aoife became a nanny and a skivvy in her new home.
“Only when they were both off work could I go to school,” said Aoife. “My purpose was to clean the house, to cook, and to take their kids to school.”
Neighbours began to notice that Aoife was neglected – she only had slippers to wear, even when it was snowing, when she took her brothers to school – and they began to sneak her their children’s old clothes and shoes to keep her warm. At the age of 17, after years of neglect and abuse, Aoife was placed in a girls’ refuge for her own safety.
She was safe, yes, but she still had a big problem: her education was seriously deficient. She had no qualifications and no family to lean on.
It was then that Aoife came across the SVP, and a volunteer identified as Kay, who organised for the society to provide the youngster with school books, lunch money and financial assistance with life’s necessities. Aoife obtained her leaving certificate and qualified to study as a nurse. She received a third-level grant, but that in no way covered all her living expenses. Again the SVP came to her help.
Aoife is now a qualified nurse.
“If Kay didn’t see me that day in the refuge, if she hadn’t advocated for me, helped me get a place on a nursing course and somewhere to live, if she hadn’t supported me with money for books and bus fares, I wouldn’t be a nurse today. I’d probably be homeless,” Aoife said.
An SVP spokesperson said the society was profoundly grateful for the continued support.
“Thank you for your faithfulness, now and always. And who knows, the next time you or a loved one is comforted by the gentle, caring words of a nurse, it may just be Nurse Aoife.
“Your gift of any size is so important, because across Ireland, desperate young people like Aoife are at risk of abandoning their education because they simply can’t afford to go to college.”
To make a donation, visit the society’s website.