Sophie's Story Barnardos

Sophie is 5 years old, and her whole world is the narrow space between two beds.

For nearly a year and a half now Sophie and her mother Aisling have been living in emergency accommodation as they have no home to call their own. Their family circumstances are complicated. It’s just the two of them now. And Aisling wants to do the best for her daughter. Sophie is her first priority, and always has been. They were doing well together until their landlord’s house was repossessed and they had no option but to leave.

More than anything I worried about how it would affect Sophie.

Aisling remembers all too well the first day they went down to register as homeless. “I was in shock. You think it couldn’t happen to you, but I just couldn’t find anywhere I could afford to rent. More than anything I worried about how it would affect Sophie.”

At first Aisling tried to make it into a big adventure for Sophie. She read her the story of Eloise, who lived in a room “on the tippy-top floor” of a hotel in New York. She told Sophie that only special little girls get to live in a hotel.

But it wasn’t long before the harsh reality of the situation began to take its toll on both of them.

Every day, each family task is carried out within the confines of their small room: breakfast, bath time, playtime, dinner and bedtime. There’s nowhere for Aisling to prepare a family meal. There’s no cooking or washing facilities. There’s no space for Sophie to play. They’ve had to move far from their family and friends. Even if they were nearby they wouldn’t be able to have them over: no visitors are allowed.

Like most emergency accommodation the hotel they’re living in is full of other people, struggling with their own difficult issues. Aisling wants to protect Sophie from witnessing anything bad so she feels forced to stay in their small room, just to feel safe.

On bad days, when the walls really feel like they’re closing in, they’ll go for long walks together.

On bad days, when the walls really feel like they’re closing in, they’ll go for long walks together. They walk for miles, looking out for builders at work. Aisling had told Sophie that the reason they don’t have a house yet is because the builders were taking such a long time to build them one. Sophie used to love seeing a builder at work. Any time she saw a van with bricks or wood she would get excited, shouting out “that’s for our house Mammy.” But that excitement is gone now. These days, when she sees a builder Sophie looks the other way.

Her whole world has shrunk to that narrow space between two hotel beds.

Sophie no longer believes that she’s a special girl, lucky to be living in a hotel. She doesn’t believe that anyone is building her a new home. She can no longer see beyond the same four walls that confine her every day. Her whole world has shrunk to that narrow space between two hotel beds. If childhood memories are the ones that shape our being, then what kind of future will Sophie have?

Thankfully, Aisling and Sophie were able to turn to Barnardos for help.

We couldn’t organise a new home for them – but we could help make small changes to improve their current living conditions. We supported Aisling and helped her get an emergency payment to purchase a mini fridge and hotplate. Now she can hold some fresh foods and cook some healthier meals for her and Sophie. It’s not much, but it’s a start.

Where we can really make a difference though is in the kind of developmental support we offer children like Sophie.

Sophie was enrolled in her local Barnardos After School Group. Working on a one to one basis with Sophie we’re making sure that she understands what’s going on, and how to express her feelings appropriately. She’s starting to get her confidence back and Aisling can already see the difference in her. Sophie will proudly march ahead now when they go for a walk. When she passes someone in the street she looks them in the eye and smiles hello.

Things are beginning to look up for Sophie and her mam. But Sophie is just one of many children needing our help.

Please consider making a donation today. Your support won’t solve the homelessness crisis, but it will have a huge and lasting impact on a child whose future is threatened by the circumstances they find themselves living in.

Donate now securely online or Callsave 1850 222 300

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Barnardos Ireland
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Main Photo: Barney Moss

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