The Jacket off Your Back
In early October 2014 my company Irish Fire And Flood Restoration was clearing out a house that was destroyed as the result of it being used as a grow house. In this house I found 3 very good coats and I decided I would clean them and on one cold night I would give them to a homeless person sleeping on the street, at this time I never gave a minutes thought to either the homeless or refugees as I had already been busy that year organising a cycle to the Vatican city where we raised €150,000 for Cancer charities.
A few weeks after this I was on a long drive to north Donegal, on these journeys I use them for my time to think. I thought of all the clothing in people’s wardrobes that they never use, and how many people we could clothe from it. I called my wife Sue and said, we should collect a few coats maybe a hundred and give them out in Dublin when it gets cold, 20 minutes later she called back and said we should call it “The Jacket Off Your Back” by Christmas it became 1,000 and now after 2 years we have collected and shipped about 3 million items of clothing.
Who we help:
The homeless and rough sleepers get top priority with weekly deliveries to Dublin with much needed clothing and sleeping bags, other groups take care of the distribution. We ship winter clothing, shoes and medical supplies to Syria via Human Appeal Ireland.. In March 2016 we drove to Idomini with 5,000 pairs of children’s shoes, this was a refugee camp on the Greek Macedonian border where 4,000 children were sleeping in cold muddy tents. We have shipped over 40,000 pairs to Greece already and another 5,000 to Syria.
In July 2015 myself and Sue visited Romania to see for ourselves the terrible poverty endured by millions of people and also to visit a Roma gypsy camp to try and get an understanding why they end up on our streets. Also to help us understand the causes of slavery
In July 2016 we opened our own distribution center and storage facility in North East Romania. In July 2016 we visited Moldova the poorest country in Europe where we witnessed extreme poverty and for the first time saw children that had never worn shoes before. What happens to the shoes you collect? The best of the adult shoes are used on the streets in Dublin and some are given to other people in need around the country. All the children’s shoes are sized and graded then shipped mostly to Greece and small amount to our projects in Eastern Europe. How do we fund this? My own company has funded all our trips, shipping to Eastern Europe and the storage unit in Ireland is all paid by my company.
Our biggest cost is running the van collecting and delivering around the country. We have no paid employees and volunteers cannot claim costs. The Jacket off You Back does not do much fundraising and depends on people giving of their own free will without being asked.
Where are we going from here? When started all this like the fundraising we have for years for cancer charities to change people’s lives, instead it has changed us.
We believe that we cannot sort out extreme poverty ourselves, but can encourage a lot of other people to do what we do. I am not a very religious person, but I do believe that if we are ever to be judged it will be on how many times we stood back and did nothing and left it to somebody else, when all along you were that somebody. As for where we are going well we will evolve.
The Jacket off your Back
Unit 2, Strawhall Industrial Park, Athy Rd, Carlow
I suppose all this sitting around with no work to do or no clothing or shoes to sort gives me a lot of time to think about next year.
In 2016 we had the very successful #ShoeTheChildren and not as well known #DoAGoodDeed21 Our next one is #RunningOutOfPoverty
We will invest time, donations and a little money on a group of 10 young boys and girls in eastern Europe who want to run or play Rugby, we have already sent 100s of running shoes and nearly 500 football boots.
Today I met former professional runner and long time friend of mine Neil Featherby for advise on how to go about this.
Sport can take 10s of thousands of young people out of poverty.
Running was something that kept me sane for many years and I owe a lot to it.
I will need more help with this one and after Christmas more sports donations, football boots, running shoes and other sports equipment.