The Gift of Healthy Feet: Podiatry Students help the homeless

10442368_10152581611411498_3667243762391989555_n   Another beautiful example of using your skills/talents to give back to those less fortunate than you.

My gorgeous friend, Jackie, teamed up with her fellow podiatry students to provide people staying in homeless centres with new shoes and socks, and most importantly, treatments.

I asked Jackie to tell us more about this amazing project!

Can you tell us a little about your project, The Gift of Healthy Feet?


The Gift of Healthy Feet is a student/ lecturer initiative. There are 6 team members. Dr Elaine Hyslop is the lead staff partner. Fiona Mullins, Final Year Podiatry student is the Lead student partner. Four other final year Podiatry students, Jacqueline Hartigan, Ellen Gorman, Siobhan O’ Meara and Bria Connolly make up the team of The Gift of Healthy Feet.

We are also working with Nurse Joan Gavin, who is an angel who works daily with the homeless community and we have co-ordinated the project under her guidance.

This project involved going to Homeless shelters and care homes in Galway city and a day care drop in centre in Ballinasloe in Galway providing podiatry services across the city and county which take in people in crisis accommodation and rough sleeping through to resettlement and independent living clients who have been re-integrated back into the local community.

We set up mobile work stations and provided podiatric care to the homeless and long term residents of some of the homes.

We worked with COPE, St Vincent’s De Paul, and Galway Simon Community.

We will present our project at the Explore poster presentation day in May at NUIG.

Dr Elaine Hyslop volunteers once a month in the Fairgreen Hostel once a month. She provides podiatric care to the homeless community.

What successes have you had so far?

We have completed 5 homeless shelters so far. We have provided Podiatric services to the homeless of Galway city and Ballinasloe. We have provided socks and shoes to all male recipients. We purchased socks at a local departments store and we ran a shoe drive over the Christmas period asking members of the public for donations. We received 126 pairs of shoes off a shoe company who wish to remain anonymous. We also had three drop off points throughout Galway city. The team members collected donations, cleaned up shoes and went to work at sorting out all shoe sizes and suitability to provide to the men at the homeless shelters.  The Lead Staff member Dr Elaine Hyslop was interviewed on local radio and the local paper in College wrote on article on the project.

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What inspired you to get involved with start up this project?

I was approached by my friend and fellow final year Podiatry student Fiona Mullins. We had a module on vulnerable adults last semester and homelessness was addressed and a man who lived on the streets previously came to tell us his story. The problems with homelessness continue to be highlighted every Christmas, but awareness drops again following the Christmas period. Our project is ongoing throughout the College year. I love volunteering and I was excited to be a part of such a wonderful meaningful and necessary project. As I am a final year Podiatry student I understand the importance of foot health. Providing podiatric services and advising the homeless on foot health and providing shoes and socks were an excellent opportunity for me to give back to the community and those at risk. So I didn’t have to think twice about being a part of The Gift of Healthy Feet.

It is hoped that this project continues to run every year with Podiatry students and the community.


 How can people help you guys out?

Donations of shoes and socks can be donated to the University.

Drop off sites:

On campus donations are welcome at :
• Discipline of Podiatry Aras Moyola
• Research Office foyer at the Business and Innovation Centre
• Students’ Union in Áras na Mac Léinn

City donations are welcome at:
• Galway Simon Shop Briarhill,
• Galway Simon Shop – Sea road,
• COPE Shop – St Augustine Street
What advice would you give anyone wanting to do something like this in their own area?

Just get up and do it. There is nothing more rewarding than helping someone out. Working on this project has allowed me to interact with people I would not normally be in contact with. I have met so many wonderful beautiful souls. They are so thankful for our time and appreciated our help. It is without a doubt the most rewarding work I have ever done. I will definitely continue to volunteer in homeless shelters and in the community providing podiatric care once I am qualified.

Volunteering is good for the soul and nothing else gives you satisfaction than helping someone out and giving someone your time.

Love and Light

Jacqueline Hartigan


If, like me, this has inspired you to do some volunteering, or even set up your own project please have a look at some of the volunteer “how to”articles and get in touch if you have any questions.

Homelessness in the UK and How You Can Help

You can’t go about your day in London without passing a homeless person and probably a lot more than one. It absolutely breaks my heart and with the weather getting colder and colder, it’s more important than ever to something about it. I have been wanting to volunteer with an organisation that looks after homeless people for months but it was the kinds acts of a few friends that finally spurred me into action. I have spent the evening contacting charities and hope to have a regular volunteer position in the next few days. For anyone that wants to join me, I will post details as soon as I have them.

The most sickening and upsetting part about it is the amount of people who walk past, seemingly unaffected, and go about their day. Homeless people are treated like a scourge, and ignored. Noone wants them there, they make us feel bad. They make us feel guilty.

I think a lot of people try to justify ignoring homeless people by relying on outdated preconceived ideas about how people end up on the street. They put it down to personal failure, drug addiction, or even personal choice but the real reasons people become homeless are much more complex. In fact, a relationship breakdown is one of the main causes of homelessness. Domestic violence, unemployment, mental health issues, sexual or physical abuse, lack of affordable housing, lack of support and crippling debts are all also high in the list.

In recent years, the success of the Facebook page, Humans of New York has done a great job of reminding us that homeless people are people too. They are just like you and I. Humans of New York, in case you are not familiar, is a photo project. People from all walks of life are photographed and their pictures accompanied by a quote or anecdote. Some are funny, some are extremely sad, some are real eye-openers and all of them are real stories about real people. The people behind HONY do a beautiful job of capturing all facets of life and many more “Humans of …” pages are popping up all over the net.

This graffitti artist in LA draws homeless people’s dream homes.

Homelessness in the UK

The most recent figure I could find is that on any given night in the UK, about 2,414 people are sleeping rough. And numbers are increasing. This figure doesn’t include anyone sleeping in shelters or with family or friends. This is the number of people out in streets. However, it is very difficult to calculate the actual number of people without a home and research suggests up to 62% of homeless people are “hidden” and will not show up in official figures.

There are an estimated 400000 “hidden homeless” in London.

Homeless Veterans

Its enrages me to think that such a huge number of people sleeping rough are ex-military. People who have risked their lives for their country are disregarded when they get home. Many suffer from PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) and other health issues caused by their time in service and many more have problems with drugs and alcohol. It is estimated that up to 100 veterans sleep rough every night in London. What does that say bout our society?

How you can help

Not everyone has the time to volunteer, but you can always do something small to help. Buy someone sleeping rough a coffee, tea or even some hot soup. Donate spare blankets, sleeping bags and flasks. Donate shoes and socks, jackets and warm clothes. No one should be sleeping rough, especially in this weather.

If you DO have time to volunteer here are some great organisations you can contact and see what you can do in your area;

St Mungos;


Shelter from the Storm;

Streets of London ;

Crisis ;

Chorlton Mad Dogs; these guys are in Manchester. They collect donated food and cook up hot meals and deliver them to homeless people all around the city. You can follow them on Facebook or Twitter.

Anyone could end up on the streets. Some of us are lucky enough to have friends and family that are in a position to support us when we fall on hard times and the means to pick ourselves back up again. I have been fortunate enough to get a good education which makes me more employable and makes job application forms more manageable. I speak fluent English. I have appropriate interview clothes and skills. I didn’t do a single thing to earn these privileges but benefit from the every day.

A poll of 2,000 UK adults we commissioned in December 2013, found that 32% of people have experienced homelessness (including sofa surfing and staying with friends) or know someone who has experienced homelessness. 14% had experienced it themselves, 20% knew someone else who had experienced it, 2% said they had both experienced it and knew others who had. –  (

Be thankful for what you have and help out those less fortunate than you whenever you can.