Galway pupil enlists entire school for homeless campaign

Rory Gavin (10) inspired by radio broadcast on Focus Ireland to ‘help make a difference’

Students at Scoil Iognaid, Galway are selling handwritten and illustrated storybooks to raise money for Focus Ireland. Video: Joe O'Shaughnessy

 

A Galway pupil’s story about an inquisitive duck has become the focus of a fundraising campaign for the homeless.

Ten-year-old Rory Gavin was so moved by a recent radio broadcast about a homeless charity that he decided to enlist support for its work from his entire school.

Gavin, who is in fourth class in Scoil Iognáid in Galway city, says the idea emerged from a story which he and classmates DJ King, Sam Finneran and Rory Walsh wrote together.

“It was about a duck that became a detective, and we showed it to my teacher, Ursula Gallagher, and she mentioned that we could perhaps publish it and raise money for charity,” he says.

“I heard about the work of Focus Ireland on the radio, and so I thought that it would be a good cause,” he adds.

Gavin, the middle of five children, explained to his mother, Aisling, that he would like to “help to make a difference”.

Story books

And so, he enlisted his class to work on little story books which they hand-wrote and illustrated themselves.

The books were photocopied in colour for sale to the junior classes in the primary school.

“We had about 50 copies, but then we decided we would like to raise a bit more, so we organised a raffle, and baked buns and a few other things,” he says.

Those “few other things” involved Gavin using his Holy Communion money to buy prizes for a raffle. That was one of a series of events, including a cake sale, a sale of arts and crafts, a lucky dip and a “readathon”.

Realising that parents might also want to contribute, Gavin suggested that the school choir might sing carols in the foyer during pick-up time from 1.30pm each day.

Galway-based children’s author Patricia Forde then got wind of his idea and wrote a short picture book especially for the occasion.

She suggested that the children illustrate the book, and read her story, entitled Fidget, to the class before it was presented to Gavin by his teacher.

Children’s Books Ireland also heard about the pupil’s altruism, and offered to donate a hamper of books for the raffle. As one parent put it, “the selfless act of one unassuming child has had a hugely positive impact on the class and the entire school.”

Lifeline services

Focus Ireland has 70 lifeline services across the State, with Sligo being the closest to Galway. However, housing shortages, escalating rents and homelessness has become a serious situation in recent months in Galway city, with estimates of up to 20 people sleeping rough at night.

Cope Galway has recently opened a new emergency accommodation facility with 14 beds as part of its cold weather initiative.

“One of the challenges Galway city is now faced with is how best to respond to the issue of rough sleeping,” Martin O’Connor of Cope Galway said this week. He has suggested that rather than contributing money, members of the public should help direct people who are homeless towards support services.

“The generosity towards people who are on the streets is heartening and no doubt is helping ensure that no one goes hungry or cold, but it’s important to avoid contributing to sustaining people to remain on the street and sleeping rough,” he said.