A Laois teenager has launched her own fundraiser in aid of the homeless.
Scoil Chriost Ri student Briony Heffernan-Price has set up an online fundraiser, ‘Sleep Out #AtHome for the Homeless’ in aid of Midlands Simon Community.
The 16-year-old Fifth Year student will sleep out in her back garden on Wednesday May 27 and is encourage others to do the same in their own gardens, in hope of raising the vital funds and awareness needed to tackle this enduring homeless crisis in our community.
Briony is involved in the Pope John Paul II Awards in her parish and school and is doing this fundraiser in a bid to take a more active role in her community.
She said: “I am involved in the Pope John Paul II Award through my Parish of St. Peter and Paul’s and through my school, Scoil Chríost Rí, Portlaoise.
“This Award enables participants to take an active part in the life of their Church, in the life of their community and society through the contribution of voluntary hours.
“However, given the current restrictions, I found it difficult to find voluntary work to get involved in. I got in contact with several organisations, but unfortunately due to current circumstances they were not looking for more volunteers, I was too young, or events and initiatives had been cancelled or put on hold for the time being.
“I was in my garden one day, thinking about how I could get involved in encouraging a positive change in our community from my own home, and so the thought of fundraising for a charity came to mind.
“I made contact with Noel Greene from Midlands Simon Community and discussed my idea about an online Sleep Out #AtHome.
“I want to raise the vital funds and awareness needed for this charity to continue tackling the enduring homeless crisis, during this period when their usual income has been restricted as a result of this pandemic.
“The great work they do inspires me, and I chose to support this charity in particular because of the life-changing work they do in providing the essential support and services to those experiencing homelessness or at risk of homelessness within my local community.
“Thanks to the support of Midlands Simon, over 1200 people have already been assisted in rebuilding their lives, moving out of homelessness and into a permanent home.”
Briony also explained how the Coronavirus lockdown gave her an insight into the isolation that homeless people must feel.
She said: “For me, when the school closed and the restrictions of living under Covid-19 started to take effect, I struggled with the new rules and the difficulty of no longer being in my usual routine or seeing my friends.
“During this time of forced isolation, it made me think about all those men, women and children in society who don’t have a safe haven or home to offer protection and security.
“I also thought about all the people who are alone, who are not living with family or friends, and the loneliness of being in complete isolation all the time.
“Experiencing these new, unprecedented challenges present in my life, it made me reflect on the life essentials that I don’t have to worry about on a daily basis.
“There is food on the table every evening, a guaranteed warm bed for me to sleep in every night, and a support system of family and friends that is unconditional. These are basic necessities that too many people are forced to live without.
“I am so lucky that I have a home, so for one night I am going to give it up and sleep outside in my garden, and I’m doing it for all of the people whose lives are absent of security, support and warmth.
“I hope that other people will follow me and sleep out in their gardens or even on their kitchen floor or sitting room sofa, in recognition of the challenging difficulties faced by the homeless in our communities.
“Together we can make that positive change. By giving just one night we can change a lifetime.”
Check out Briony’s fundraiser below: