UCC student's plan to employ homeless to make sleeping bag invention

A UCC student hopes to employ homeless people in Cork to make her sleeping bag invention, which she designed specifically for rough sleepers.

Social entrepreneur and UCC Quercus scholar Emily Duffy, 18, said she is in talks with groups who work with the homeless in the city with a view to replicating a successful project in Dublin, which employs 20 homeless people making the so-called Duffily Bag.

“Most of the bags we make are used in Dublin, but now that I’m studying in UCC, it makes sense to do something similar in Cork,” she said.

Emily, from Limerick, who is in her first year of studying commerce, was speaking after a meeting this week with UCC president Patrick O’Shea. Mr O’Shea heard about her invention and invited her to a meeting to hear more about the product. He bought a bag and said he would help spread the word of her invention.

Emily was just 14 when she invented a ‘homeless wrap’ and showcased it at the 2015 BT Young Scientist competition.

The so-called Duffily Bag is designed to alleviate the problems faced by people sleeping rough. It is lightweight, waterproof, heat-retaining, non-flammable, and highly reflective. The hood, which doubles up as a pillow, has a pouch for storing valuables .

The Mendicity Institute in Dublin, a charity helping the homeless in the capital since 1818, heard about the product in 2015 and forged a partnership with Emily which led to the creation of an employment project which sees 20 of its service users paid €10 an hour to make Duffily Bags. Hundreds have been distributed in Dublin, where the homeless problem is at crisis point.

Hundreds more have been distributed to refugee camps in Calais and Dunkirk, and many more have also been sold in London and Canada.

Emily said she hopes to replicate the employment project with a homeless charity or agency in Cork soon.

“It is not a money-making venture. This is to help the homeless,” she said.

There are various ways to support the manufacture of the bags, including sponsoring a bag to cover the cost price and other options to make an additional donation. The cost of producing the bags is reduced if bulk orders are placed.

You can find out how to support the venture by visiting duffily.myshopify.com

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