In October, 20 University of Galway students gathered in the Quadrangle for the first ever ‘Sleep Out for Simon’ to take place on the University’s campus.
The goal of the initiative was to fundraise for the Simon Community, which is an Irish charity helping homeless people. Auditor of the University of Galway Simon Society, Dara Golden, said that the organisation’s work “is not just about providing emergency accommodation, it’s about providing long-term pathways out of homelessness.”
Treasurer of the Society, Sadhbh O’Riordan, first got involved with the Simon Community by working in one of its charity shops and emphasised that the organisation focuses on three primary areas: homelessness prevention, providing housing, and helping people with their health and wellbeing.
The Sleep Out got off to “a good start,” according to Rory O’Flaherty, who is Vice Auditor of the Society. Rory led some ice breaker games and a student trad group, Fiántas Ceol, played songs throughout the evening.
After an intense round of ‘rock, paper, scissors’ in the Quadrangle, one of the participants, Anna Sheehy, outlined why she decided to do the Sleep Out. “There’s a lot of homelessness in Galway,” she said, “and it’s getting more evident.”
“I’m in a position of privilege having somewhere to sleep and having a home to go to,” Anna continued, “I thought it would be nice to get involved and help out.”
Early the next morning, Rory felt that it was “an enjoyable night.” He said that “we had a camaraderie there” and “we were all in it together.” Despite it being 6 am on a Saturday morning, Dara was equally positive and said “the most important thing for me was the sense of community.” Rory highlighted that the “sense of community is lovely but that it is something we were lucky to have. It’s something that, unfortunately, many of the people who find themselves in the circumstances we were simulating don’t have.”
Sadhbh believed that the Sleep Out went “really well.” She said that she experienced an “enlightening [and] strange feeling” when she woke up in the middle of the night feeling cold. “There is only so much you can do about it,” Sadhbh stressed. She pointed out that she could avail of the tea and coffee available in the Quadrangle “but that isn’t a resource for everyone else.”
The ‘Sleep Out for Simon’ in the Quadrangle has already raised over €5,000 in aid of the Simon Community. Donations are still being accepted and can be made here until the 1st of December.
You can learn more about the ‘Sleep Out for Simon’ discussed in this article by listening to Tom O’Connor’s radio report from the fundraising initiative here.