The staff of Edel House took their turn to host a “Shadowing Day” which gave all visiting staff and volunteers a unique opportunity to gain more insight into how staff members in this branch of the Good Shepherd Cork work.
The experience was of huge benefit to all, not just because it offered a fresh perspective on the roles and responsibilities of others, but also because it allowed us to reflect on and review our own roles and deepen our understanding of the processes that we are all directly or indirectly involved in.
During the shadowing presentation in Edel House, I couldn’t help being struck by the size of the “family room” we were shown. Typically, a mother with two or three children would have to live, sleep and cook in a space that might well be the same dimensions of a prison cell. This is to say that if you sat on the bed you would be able to touch the cooker with your feet. Children, who can hardly be contained for any extended period of time in these limited spaces, will often pace the stairs and corridors of Edel House, for want of a play space, or just some place to work off their energy.
Every day, staff witness the low morale suffered by women who, through misfortune or otherwise, find themselves obliged to live, albeit temporarily, in these tiny rooms. They explained that, it would not be unusual for some occupants to not even want to get up in the mornings. Yet, incredibly, there are others, who, despite all, will trudge on relentlessly. The example was given of one mother of three who travelled all day, every day to ensure that each of her children got to their different schools, outside the city. This mother would even use the time while waiting for one child to come out of school to do homework with another. Every evening she would cook dinner in the tiny family room to make sure the three children were properly fed.
Cases like these have no issues other than humble poverty keeping them homeless. Unfortunately, there is a widespread adversity to rent allowance and having three small children didn’t help this woman in her search for accommodation, and so, today, she and her children cannot find a place to live.
As a tutor for Good Shepherd Cork’s Education and Development project, I couldn’t help but feel new respect for the women and children who are very often referred to us, through Edel House, for classes and training.
Reflecting on my own role in the lives of these girls and women, I was reminded at the “Shadowing Day” just how easy it is to take the roof over my own head for granted. Not having to worry about having a home allows me to put all my energy and focus into giving classes and pushing the girls to get their certificates. In truth, it is not without a tinge of guilt that I recall my own frustrations at times when students won’t apply themselves or when they lack enthusiasm. In reality, it must be so hard for any individual who is struggling with life, who is disheartened and dispirited and can’t call anywhere home, to give her full attention to self-development and the completion of exams.
Furthermore, it highlights the huge achievement it really is, when trainees do overcome the barriers that have been holding them back and complete their studies, moving on afterwards to higher studies or employment.
At the end of the “Shadowing Day” I was convinced that the underlying key word has to be “hope”. If we feel any duty in our daily responsibilities to the vulnerable it should be not to allow them to lose this. Hope doesn’t have to mean being able to find all the solutions and solve all the problems today but it does keep people moving forward.