The neurons sending speech impulses from Ashling Dunphy’s brain to her mouth simply cannot transmit with the requisite haste.
Ashling, a 15-year-old student attending Comeragh College, Carrick-on-Suir, has a lot to say, and there’s a great sense of civic minded purpose in her words.
She is not your average mid-teen, nor indeed are those among her cohort who, in the wake of Storm Frank, have spearheaded a drive to assist those affected by the recent flooding in Carrick, particularly the elderly.
On Tuesday evening last, Ashling, along with her fellow Comeragh College student Kerri-ann Whelan, strode into the lobby of the Carraig Hotel, complete in their water resistant ‘work fatigues’.
“When I saw the RTE report with Fergus Power (of Café West, whose 85-year-old mother had to be evacuated from her North Quay home on December 29th) and Tom Treacy (whose house and home fuels business was inundated by flood water), I just felt that there had to be something that and some of my friends could do to help,” said Ashling, a native of nearby Ballyneale.
“After all, I wasn’t back in school yet, I wasn’t particularly busy with anything and I thought getting involved was the right thing to do. How could you sit at home when people were suffering?”
A group of nine students, including Ashling and Kerry-ann, came together, devised a plan of action and got to work, basing their activities in the local Foróige Hall, adjacent to the town’s courthouse.
Their primary focus was to assist the elderly residents on flood-damaged Mill Street and Bridge Street, to whom they’ve provided meals to (and more besides) over the past week or so.
And when word spread of their efforts, local businesses weighed in behind a group that have been dubbed Carrick’s ‘Angels in Wellies’, availing of a shopping trolley to ferry supplies and their work wares around the town.
Ashling continued: “We’d already bought a lot of cleaning equipment ourselves so then we thought about what the residents really needed so we came up with a care package for them, the essentials like a sliced pan, all that kind of thing, and we put a hot water bottle in the bottom of the pack – Sam McAuley helped us out with that.
“SuperValu gave us €50 off a grocery shop, Lidl told us to fill a basket with €50 worth of shopping, My Dress gave us a €100 donation, Café West provided a roast for the dinner, the Carraig has helped out – the whole town has really got behind us.
“And Donna from ‘A New U’ texted me, and asked me to let any of the elderly ladies who were feeling a bit down or housebound, that they could call into her salon and get a free blow dry or get their nails done. It’s like a big jigsaw and it’s taken a lot of pieces to fall into place before it’s all come together.”
When the ‘Angels’ began distributing packages to residents, Kerri-ann said the recipients were in a state of near disbelief. “They thought they could only take one item from the package – they didn’t know the whole package was for each of them,” she said. “They were all so grateful.”
And the students, along with their Foróige leaders, have got their hands dirty, cleaning out rooms, garages, ovens, and other parts of homes affected by Storm Frank.
Said Ashling: “A lot of people are coming up and thanking me, saying well done and all that, but a football team needs all its players doing their jobs well to achieve anything, and that’s what’s happened with everyone who’s been involved in this. Teenagers don’t always tend to get good publicity, and I think it’s even harder to get good news out if you’re going to a Deis School like we do – I go to a very good school but that’s how we’re designated right now. “There’s a lot we can do, as teenagers to help our elderly, and there’s a lot of elderly people living on their own in this town, and it doesn’t have to be something incredibly big. By just saying hello to someone you pass on the street, by maybe calling in to check on someone, making them a cup of tea, anything – I’ve an idea about maybe doing something with the Tidy Towns – because once we’re back in school, there are still things we can do to help, particularly those people who don’t have any family nearby at all.
“So why not keep this thing going, come together and help, to do things like volunteer for Lourdes or the Special Olympics, or to call into your elderly neighbour – most of us have no idea what just how much a ‘hello’ can mean to someone who is on their own for most of the day, every day.
“We should be preparing for life at our age, as well as our exams, and we probably ought to go back to a time, for however much people our age use social media, when people used to really talk to each other – surely that’s better than posting photos of cats!”
Ashling and Kerri-ann both agreed that their group’s good works “are just the start of something – it doesn’t end when we go back to school,” with Kerry aptly adding: “just because we’re young doesn’t mean we don’t understand what’s going on. We can still help.”
Not only are Carrick’s ‘Angels in Wellies’ the best of their own generation, they’re simply the very best of us.
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Check out more of Ashling’s thoughts on her ‘Just Another Rant’ blog on Facebook.