In 2018 my family moved into an emergency accommodation hostel in Swords for seven months. When we moved, I was only two months away from sitting my Junior Cert exams and it was a really disruptive change. I was forced to study on the floor of the B&B as there was no room for me anywhere else. Ants would crawl over the floor and all over my work. There were mice chewing my things and running around the floor once we all went to bed.
Despite this, I was determined to do well in school. I didn’t want this to affect my success. I wanted to make my mom and my family proud. I knew I was still more than capable.
Moving into the B&B
In the three months leading up to losing our home, I didn’t tell anybody what was happening because I didn’t think it would happen. I thought that we would find a house and everything would be fine. I didn’t expect that it would have gotten to the point of homelessness. I felt like if I told people it would become real and I didn’t want it to be. I didn’t want anyone’s pity. I didn’t want anyone to treat me differently or like I was a broken child because that’s not who I am.
I wasn’t involved in the moving process thankfully as I went to a church camp over the weekend. I believe my time at camp was an important time for me to connect with God before embarking on this very scary journey. One thing I remembered from the camp, and it is one thing I will always take with me, is that God doesn’t change even though your circumstances do. The person who said these lines that day had no idea of the type of radical change in circumstances I would be experiencing just a day later.
How my faith helped me
After we finished a long day of moving in, we all sat in our room in the B&B. My mom called us all to pray and it was very emotional. Would God preserve our family? Had he abandoned us? I prayed last and I almost couldn’t get through it. It was hard not to cry but it settled my mind again thinking that God doesn’t change, even though my circumstances had.
I had become a Christian, in August 2017 and I was excited for the journey, expecting blessings and blessings but less than one year later I was confronted by some of the biggest storms. My only family in Ireland had been deported in January and now a few months later I was homeless. It seemed as if I should have given up on God, but he didn’t give up on me. He showed me that he was still there, providing for me. He gave me an anchor so I wouldn’t sink.
Building positive relationships
I built a relationship with the younger children in the B&B. The kids brought me so much positivity. They were the biggest blessing. They literally knocked on my door the day after we moved in and asked me for help with their spellings. I remember how hard it was to compose myself in school that first day but when I got home they really brightened things up for me. By the two-week mark, we had bonded so much and they introduced me to their family, including their pet rabbit. These memories make me so happy. I don’t know how I would have coped if they hadn’t been there at the start. They were just like angels.
One day when I came back from school I realised that they had moved out. I never got to say goodbye and it really broke my heart. It was probably one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to go through. At that moment it felt like I had lost a really important support in my life.
Support from others
When we moved into emergency accommodation, Focus Ireland assigned us a caseworker, Chris. Chris was a face of encouragement for us. He gave us legal advice, helped us to navigate the system, and gave us advice about housing and things like that. He was the perfect representative of Focus Ireland, – both helpful and supportive. My brothers and I were in full-time education, so Chris got us three fully loaded Leap cards, and I calculated that it was enough for me to get to school and back for a year without even having to top up once. Focus Ireland offered to pay for a few of the summer camps I went to that year and because of that Focus Ireland gave me a way to really enjoy my summer and escape the dreary atmosphere of the B&B
Chris really opened my eyes to see all the help that was available to me. My church family rallied for me, hosting us for dinner almost every week, doing our laundry, offering their kitchens so we could cook. My school was a great support also, providing me free lunches if I ever needed them. Help came out of nowhere.
I find that anytime I remember these experiences they always leave me in tears. But struggles add character to a smooth road. They create a life of hills and valleys but it is a beautiful landscape. When I pass through a valley, I know that I don’t walk alone and that I don’t have to fear the future because one day a hill will come.
Looking back on the experience
It was important for me not to feel like I was held back by all of these negative experiences because on the outside it looked like I was at every possible disadvantage. But God showed me that I was limitless and that there was really nothing to stop me. Not my race, not my gender, and definitely not my circumstances.
I want you all to know that you are limitless. You are limitless if you want to be! You are limitless if you believe you are and you are limitless if you work harder than what is working against you. For those that believe, I say ‘if God is for us who can be against us’ – Romans 8:31