Working at kitchen is an 'eye-opener'
A volunteer at one local soup kitchen explains why he does it
A charitable young man from Skerries is spending a Christmas with a difference by helping less fortunate members of the Balbriggan community.
Brian Walsh (16), a transition year student at Belvedere College in Dublin City Centre, has decided to give up his time at Christmas and volunteer at the recently opened Balbriggan Soup Kitchen, which now more than ever could do with the extra help.
The centre, opened last September, welcomes those experiencing difficult times - those who may struggle to provide themselves with nourishing meals, who are socially isolated, and in some cases, who are just seeking warmth.
Taking a break from all the hard work, Brian told The Fingal Independent how he came to be involved with the centre, and of the friendly souls who venture in:
'I heard about the centre opening up, and I thought I'd go down and see what it was like. I really liked it when I saw it, and thought I'd see if I could help out.'
He says: 'The people who come in are really grateful. I thought maybe they might be a bit rough or something like that, but it's not like that at all. Everyone is really nice, and they're always up for a chat.
''You have your usual people coming in, and I'm getting to know them all and I think they're getting to know me a bit. If there aren't too many people in, we can go over and sit down with them and have a chat.'
Brian says joining the centre at Balbriggan was an 'eye-opener', since prior to that, he hadn't thought there was a significant homelessness problem in the town.
A lot of people from the town, he says, would come into the centre whom he wouldn't have seen before, or known as being homeless.
Since Brian began work in the centre at the beginning of December, he has come to know some of the service users on a personal level. Some of their backgrounds were, he says, 'really tough.'
He says: 'I was chatting to a girl yesterday who was an alcoholic, and also suffering from bipolar. I think she's getting Alzheimer's as well, so it's really tough for some of them.
'This girl's husband left her, and I think she owns part of the house, but he kicked her out and moved his new girlfriend in, and now her brothers are charging her to stay in their house. She'd be in her late thirties or early forties maybe.'
Working in the centre, Brian has become more impassioned about the homelessness crisis, and says he can't understand why the government isn't doing more to help alleviate the problem: 'I think they are building more houses, but the houses are too expensive, so you'd have to bring down the price of houses anyway.
'There's loads of derelict houses that are all around Dublin that are all boarded up, and no one's using them, so why can't they just open them all up and let people live there? There are so many buildings like that, and I think it's just ridiculous.'
Having worked in Balbriggan Soup Kitchen for just two weeks, Brian has already become attached, forming new friendships with both the other volunteers, and the regulars who come in.
Speaking fondly of his time so far, he says: 'It's great coming in. The people who work here are so friendly, and the people who come in are gas. Everyone's just like one big family, so it's really nice.'
Balbriggan Soup Kitchen has found itself another loyal volunteer, and the people who call in have found another smiling face.
Brian continued working over the Christmas period, helping more people in need and bringing his own brand of Christmas cheer along the way.