'SVP scholarship opened a golden door' - disabled mother of gifted twin boys
Single mother-of-five Breda Henry broke down in tears the day her gifted sons received their Leaving Cert results.
The 58-year-old mum from Coolock, Dublin, said being unable to afford her twin boys' third-level education crippled her with sadness.
Despite receiving 600 and 580 points respectively, brothers Kenneth and Sean had limited prospects growing up in a disadvantaged household. "The last 20 years were extremely hard for us," said Ms Henry. "When the boys were in primary school I was told they were exceptionally bright, but when they got into secondary even buying their copy books was a big struggle."
In an effort to scrape together some spare cash, the devoted mother cycled as far as Howth to clean houses at night.
"Even the cash I saved by not getting the bus helped me a lot to keep my family fed," she said. Things got so stressful Breda that she suffered two heart attacks and a stroke.
"The right side of my body is now disabled. I lost my voice, but eventually got it back," she said.
Ms Henry was then encouraged to seek help from St Vincent de Paul, a move she believes saved her life.
"They listened to me with such empathy and didn't judge me in the slightest.
"I explained my sons' college ambitions and they told me about a SVP scholarship scheme they could apply for," added Ms Henry.
Once Kenneth and Sean received their outstanding Leaving Cert results, their mother was overcome. "I was roaring crying because I knew their potential and wanted the best for them," she said.
Her dream soon came true as both brothers received full college scholarships.
"SVP opened a golden door to me. Sean got the charity's scholarship to study religion and English at Mater Dei (in Dublin).
"And Kenneth received the Donogh O'Malley scholarship to study business and French in Trinity College.
"However, Kenneth wouldn't take the scholarship and handed it back because he felt there was another young lad that needed it more.
"Thankfully, he had enough money put away to get him through each year," she said.
Kenneth (24) is now a chartered accountant and Sean is currently studying for a PhD in Maynooth University, Co Kildare.
"I'm just so proud of them," added Ms Henry. "Their success is all down to the generosity of SVP."