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'I never knew how to read and write' - Meeting Fr Peter McVerry changed this Dublin man's life

"I met Peter when I was 10 years of age. I was homeless and Peter asked me one day what I was doing walking around Summerhill all day."

'I never knew how to read and write' - Meeting Fr Peter McVerry changed this Dublin man's life

As a young boy Paddy Fay, 53, used to wander homeless around Dublin's north inner city until one day he bumped into Fr Peter McVerry.

"I met Peter when I was 10 years of age. I was homeless and Peter asked me one day what I was doing walking around Summerhill all day," explained Paddy.

When Fr McVerry found a house in the north inner city in 1979, and he opened what would become the Peter McVerry Trust's first-ever home, Paddy became its first resident.

"He asked me: 'Paddy would you like to come and live in a place that's secure and you won't get clattered around for things you don't do?' and I said: 'Yeah.'

"On Christmas Eve 1979 he brought me to here and I remember walking through the front door and this room was the sitting room and the Christmas tree was up and everything else, the balloons and the decorations and it really felt like home," said Paddy.

"I had been in and out of other places, not very nice places, but I stayed here until I was 16-and-a-half," he added.

During his years in the care home he was also taught to read and write by Fr McVerry, and reading would become one of his lifelong hobbies.

I never knew how to read and write and Peter used to teach me in this house. He'd sit down with me in the kitchen and he taught me how to read and write. It took very long. I knew the simple words but I didn't know big words.

"From then on it just kept coming, little bits by little bits and then I became a very good reader. Reading became one of my hobbies. I liked reading books, I liked reading magazines and newspapers," said Paddy.

Paddy said meeting Peter changed the course of his life from a young age and also helped him in very difficult times. From alcoholism to losing his sight, the Trust was there to support him.

"Did it change the course of my life? Oh yeah. If I hadn't come here when it was open I would have had nowhere and I would have ended up dead.

"As life went by I got mixed up in drugs when I left here, it was coming into the 1980s. I got mixed up in alcohol, I became a chronic alcoholic. I bought a bottle of vodka one day and that's how I became blind," said Paddy.

"It turned out to be methanol that I bought and I drank it and that's how I became blind. Only for the Trust I would have died. They wrapped me up in cotton wool and they kept me well looked after," he added.

Today Paddy lives in his own secure accommodation, goes to the National Council for the Blind once a week where he learns brail and also goes to the gym to do pilates.

"I feel great, I feel great," he said.

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