Mary Mokdad – ICHH Volunteer

Mary Fact File

Occupation: Retired Care Assistant, retired last year

Family: 4 grandchildren keep me going, you love to see them coming but it’s great to see them go too!!

Hobbies: Hiking, climbing, greenway, step dancing as well

Years of Volunteering: 4 years, just a little over, was elsewhere, didn’t like ‘the politics’, too many egos, not doing it for the right reason, not for me at all

Age: 67

Why did you choose ICHH?

Mary: A friend of mine had told me about them, because I started elsewhere, I wanted to continue.

What does volunteering involve with ICHH?

Mary: I have done a lot now, talks in school, cover reception, walking team before covid but mostly I drive the van and do inductions for new volunteers

It was great to see Geraldine on the Late Late show wasn’t it?

Mary: Marvellous, I was delighted, we do the easy part, but there’s a great team keeping everything going from the office. There’s a huge amount of work behind the scenes, Esther, Brian, Ann, Gerry and Anto.

Are there any stories that have stuck with you over the years?

Mary: There wouldn’t be any happy stories…

We never hear of the people getting their forever home.

“We had met a girl on the boardwalk that had signed herself out of the rotunda, I wasn’t sure if I was going to be a godmother or a midwife!”

3 years ago on the walking team, on the boardwalk at the quays, I spotted a girl sitting over the railing, I’m an old woman now, but somehow I ran and managed to grab her before she jumped in and called the ambulance and stayed with her until that arrived.

“That’s the sadness, no two nights are the same!”

You see situations where girls who have been separated from their kids, their kids are now in care, that family factor, it’s just so awful.

I’m a mother and grandmother, those experiences hit you.

How do you approach homeless people?

Mary: I think for me life skills kicks in being a mother and a carer, when you get to my age you can make a good call, a good read on people, with that little bit of experience, you have to have empathy, there is no glory, you cant be going to work the next day saying “guess what I done last night”.

They need a kind word and no judgement; we might be the only people they have spoken to all day.

I’m always surprised, before I started I had no idea about homeless, I like most thought it was due to either drugs or drink. I didn’t know anything about the hidden homeless.

We have a great rapport with the people, where you were last night, we know their names, they know ours, we get to know their little ways, coffee, tea, sugars, do they take milk. 

How have things been affected since covid?

Mary: Recently I met a woman with a six-month-old baby. The baby’s blanket was soaked through. It was a quarter to 11 at night; she had been given an address but couldn’t find the building, so sad. I think the focus has been taken off vulnerable homeless people.

“When you get home these people are running through your mind.” 

We are dealing with a young girl staying out in North County Dublin, she recognised me from the walking teams years ago. She’s pregnant; she has a little girl in care. How do you help, all we can do is the best we can during those few minutes. 

Ann put in the group, short of drivers tonight, so I said I would go out, everyone is happy to help when they can.

If we don’t have three vans out tonight, someone will do a double route, we will do a late night. We will do Ballymun, North Dublin, into Eastpoint, into town. It will be a late night. Now that’s not a complaint!

Before covid we would have 20 per night since March. It’s just the vans, so it puts a stress on the vans, and everyone has to protect themselves and their family’s health.

It’s unusual for a grandmother to be on the streets, what do your family and friends think?

Mary: I didn’t tell anyone for ages at the start.

Then they find out and half think you’re mad, half of them canonize you, and I don’t want that

“I’m just giving a little something back, I’ve raised my family, I’m just giving something back.”

My husband is delighted, my son and daughter are very proud, I don’t know why, but there you have it.

Some people can do it, some can’t.

Have you had any negativity expressed about volunteering?

Mary: I have a friend who is against homelessness, she thinks it’s all drink and drugs. 

I told her we are not to speak of this again!!!

My husband and I had a night out for dinner and in the car on the way into town I recognised a few clients in doorways. I wanted to get out and my husband is telling me it’s your night off!

I got out on the way home to make sure they are ok..

Marriages are all about compromises hey Mary?

Any final tips?

Mary: You can’t let it consume it, you have to take a step back, I do what I can.

My step back is the Happy Rovers, that’s my hiking group, they are a great bunch to help me forget about all of the world’s problems.

Thank you Mary, stay safe this evening 

Mary: Thanks you too.

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Mary Mokdad – ICHH Volunteer