'Young people have role to play in helping homeless'
Young people have a role to play in the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul alongside the charity's veteran volunteers, according to one of its youngest key members.
Chantelle O'Sullivan began volunteering with SVP in Castletown-Berehaven, west Cork after her Leaving Cert.
She told how loneliness in rural areas is a major problem.
"Loneliness is a big issue down there, so we were working on that," she said.
"It's something that's happened a lot in rural areas, with people living far apart.
"It was so great listening to the people's stories.
"There was a great social aspect because you'd be meeting people all the time."
Now chairperson of UCC's Saint Vincent de Paul society, Chantelle is also the society's National Youth Representative for Cork and Kerry.
"Young people are very interested in hearing about their lives.
"From children and families to the elderly, you make good friends.
"Sometimes in hospital, people just want someone to talk to," she added.
"Even if they are getting great care, they just want another person for a chat."
During her first year of study in Cork Institute of Technology (CIT), Chantelle wanted to keep up her volunteer work in third-level.
"I realised there was no Saint Vincent de Paul society there, so I founded one," she said. "Then in my second year, I moved to UCC and joined the conference there."
The SVP society in UCC is the oldest charitable society on campus, and members work alongside the Bishopstown conference by distributing vouchers and organising toy and food appeals.
"It's so great, and our volunteers are very positive.
"They really enjoy helping out with the children," Chantelle said.
"You finish volunteering after a few hours and you have this amazing feeling," she added.
But Chantelle adds that homelessness is becoming a major issue across the city.
"There's a waiting list to get into homeless hostels in Cork city," Chantelle said.
"There are families living in one room," she added.
"Just because you might not see it on the streets, it doesn't mean it's not there."
Chantelle says volunteering has helped her make friends with people around the world. "We all have a position and role but we all have the same aim - to help people," she added.