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?

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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.

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 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

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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.

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