28 Nov 2021

Laois school gives overwhelming support to the homeless

Laois teacher 'overwhelmed' with student support for homeless collection

A Laois school has gathered thousands of items to help people who are homeless, in just a week.

What began as a classroom chat about a story on homelessness grew into the entire school of St Mary's CBS in Portlaoise getting involved.

Teacher Eimear Lewens suggested the idea to her first year English students, and was overwhelmed with the response.

"We had read a text on homelessness, I suggested a collection and it just took off. I am overwhelmed and so excited. I have hundreds of items in my room. Students came to give me everything from a saved up Capri Sun drink to cans of food from home. My students were tripping over themselves to help. Older students that I used to teach took the time to find me to give me things," she said.

She got advice from the Portlaoise Action to Homelessness (PATH) charity group on what they needed. PATH volunteers travel to Dublin every Saturday night to meet and feed homeless people, using locally donated food and gifts.

The message was for toiletries and bars of chocolate, new socks and hats and Ms Lewens enlisted a Transition Year student to call to every class and ask for support. She also got her SPHE students to make up posters for the corridors, and write letters to local businesses to ask for donations. 

The SPHE students have also made small Christmas cards with individual messages for each bag.

She thanks Hughes Pharmacy, Portlaoise who came up trumps, delivering six boxes of sanitary items and toiletries to the school.

"It's just been fantastic, I'm ecstatic. It has created a massive feel-good factor around the school. I am so proud of the boys," Ms Lewens said.

Ms Lewens is packing ziplok bags herself to ensure they are carefully sanitized, and needs more of the plastic resealable bags. 

Already she has packed over 160, each with things like hand sanitiser, sanitary towels, masks, toothbrushes and toothpaste, shampoo and shower gel, baby wipes, sweets and chocolate.

Students can continue to donate until Wednesday, December 2. The collection with then be presented to a member of PATH.

Follow PATH's work on their Facebook page here. 

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