From sleeping rough to masters degrees: Twins share identical passion

From sleeping rough to masters degrees: Twins share identical passion

Allen and Jay Bobinac - pictured with Professor Veronica Campbell, SETU President and Dr Joe Collins, Head of Faculty of Lifelong Learning at SETU Carlow campus - were presented with a special achievement award by the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science, Simon Harris at a ceremony at South East Technological University in Carlow. Photo: Patrick Browne

Two former kitchen porters who slept rough in the Phoenix Park to save enough money for college are today celebrating two masters’ degrees.

Identical twins Allen and Jay Bobinac, 25, were presented with a special achievement award by the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science, Simon Harris at a ceremony in Tiglin, Ashford, Co Wicklow

The twins were selling parking tickets to tourists on their native island of Krk off the coast of Croatia in 2015 when they decided their best chance of a future lay in Ireland. They only had enough money for one plane ticket, however. Allen arrived here first but soon found himself on the streets of Dublin alone. 

He told the Irish Examiner:

I had a blanket, that was all I had. It’s very hard psychologically as well as physically to be homeless.

At one point he was picked up by the gardaí walking along the motorway back into Dublin city centre because he couldn’t afford to get the bus. When he eventually found a day’s work with Keelings, he bought a plane ticket for his twin brother to join him in Dublin. 

“I knew the situation he was in,” he said. 

Jay nearly didn’t make it, having to ask a random stranger in a Swiss airport for €40 to complete his journey. “I knew it was the beginning of something. We had one chance to get this right and make it work,” Jay told the Irish Examiner.

The twins are now celebrating their journey from homelessness to graduating with masters’ degrees in Social Care thanks to the help of homeless charity Tiglin, who first put them on their path to learning. 

“We met Tiglin Chairman (and co-founder) Aubrey McCarthy who told us to try an education valuation in the city centre,” said Jay. They started with a short course in Business and Management, working as kitchen porters by day and sleeping rough by night in order to save money for more courses. 

They eventually completed degrees and masters’ degrees in Social Care and now manage Tiglin centres in Pearse Street and Naas. Their new life and educational achievements were recognised by Simon Harris and the Croatian Ambassador to Ireland, Davor Vidis.

Education programme

Simon Harris also launched a three-year project, at a cost of €833,333 to South East Technological University (SETU) and Tiglin to allow other people experiencing homelessness, drug or alcohol addiction a pathway to higher education.

“Education has opened doors for us. Starting from the bottom of the education ladder to where we’re at now is special,” said Jay.

“This project is about people. Through this project we will continue to break down barriers to access and support learners achieve their full potential,” said head of lifelong learning at SETU’s Carlow Campus Dr Joseph Collins.

“It is in the spirit of our new National Access Plan, which for the first time specifically includes students who have experienced homelessness, among others who are socio-economically disadvantaged. We want a truly inclusive third-level system, where neither your background nor experience has a bearing on your ability to attend or succeed in higher education,” said Mr Harris.

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