John Lonergan, the former governor of Mountjoy Prison, launched the Mementos — Snapshots of Life project in the city last night.
The project, which ran at Simon centres in Cork this summer, saw some 30 residents sharing cherished mementos and keepsakes, and the personal stories behind them.
Among the items were one Simon resident’s 2012 Cork City marathon medal — he has completed three marathons raising almost €1,000 for charity.
“I got the idea when I was in hospital. Here’s me, I’m the one who’s expected to get charity, and I’m giving it away,” he said.
Another resident showed off a tiny porcelain angel. “My daughter gave it to me. True happiness is allowing myself to be who I really am. My angel helps me to do this on a daily basis, on a good day, and every day,” the resident said.
The project culminated in the video presentation which was unveiled last night.
It will be projected on to the front of the city’s central library each evening this week to mark Cork Simon Week.
The charity’s assistant director, Aaron O’Connell, said the items are snapshots of happier times and precious moments, while some offer a glimpse into more troubled lives.
“People revealed so much of themselves by sharing their innermost thoughts and memories,” he said.
“Whilst Mementos offers a glimpse into troubled lives, what we see is hope, a longing for happiness, and people believing in themselves and in a brighter future.”
Mr Lonergan said they show how fragile all of us are as human beings. “Every human being longs for a place that he or she can call home, and we all have a responsibility to help make that a reality for everyone in our society,” he said.
“Without a home we are isolated, disconnected, and alone in the world. When we find ourselves in difficulty, what we all appreciate more than anything else is a place of comfort, care, and support.”
The project was run by six volunteers supported by Cork Simon’s activities team, while photographer Jeannie McCarthy volunteered to photograph the items.
One of the six volunteers, Kathy D’Arcy, a writer in residence at Tigh Filí and a youth worker in Cork, said being involved in the project was “one of the most enriching and humbling experiences” of her life.
Cork Simon Week runs until Sunday with a series of events highlighting the challenges being faced by people who are homeless and what we need to do to address the issue.
It will include a debate on homelessness at 7.30pm tonight in UCC’s Kane Building.
A report highlighting the barriers to employment faced by homeless people will be launched tomorrow, before Cork Simon residents get to meet some of their elected representatives on Friday to discuss the challenges they face.