Lyng playing key role in Gaelic Voices for Change
A group of current and former inter-county football, hurling and camogie players have united under an umbrella organisation named Gaelic Voices for Change and on Saturday night next, December 16, they'll take to the streets to draw attention towards Ireland's homelessness crisis.
Former Wexford hurling captain Diarmuid Lyng is one of those voices talking about Gaelic Voices for Change. When the call came from Dublin a couple of months ago to a meeting facilitated by the GPA and WGPA about inter-county players finding ways to engage with social problems, he was not sure if he would go.
Home is west Kerry, his first child is due in January. But he was drawn to the idea and 30 of them gathered to talk. Could players do anything?
The conversation settled on a sleep-out, but not as a major event. No big push. No media campaigns. 'The genuine point from the start was 'we'll just do it ourselves, says Lyng, 'see how it feels and we'll have a better idea how we can help from here.'
But in a few weeks it has outgrown them all. Next Saturday, nearly 400 inter-county players will sleep out at a dozen locations reaching to New York and Boston. Entire county panels have committed to turn out in some places. The scale of the project has ballooned.
The organisation, supported by both the GPA and the WGPA, boasts members from many counties. It was following a series of meetings which have taken place every week for the past two months, that inter-county players have signed up for a player-led sleep-out, which will take place on the pavements of Wexford, Dublin, Galway, Cork, Limerick, Belfast, Portlaoise, Waterford and Carlow.
Having already met with leading experts in the area of homelessness, the group say they're alarmed by ISPCC reports, which claim Ireland now had the highest rate of child homelessness in Europe, and that, according to Focus Ireland there has been a 24 per cent increase in homelessness in this country over the past year.
Their consensus being that the GAA is based largely on community values, Gaelic Voices for Change, aim solely to support these children, as well as other vulnerable members of society.
'The interesting thing about it, I think, is that I don't particularly know what it is that we can do to make the necessary changes,' says Lyng, one of the driving forces behind the initiative.
'As we're in communication in terms of how to organise what is a national event taking place this Saturday, I see now how easy it is to have an open-source kind of communication between these places and between loads of difference people in these places, ' said Lyng.
The group was set up because there's just so many great people within the GAA doing fantastic work - Philly McMahon trying to help out with the drugs problem; Kevin McManamon and Alan O'Mara about mental health; Joe Canning over in UNICEF, and Alan Kerins and all the great work he's doing in Africa., But now those who sleep out on Saturday night are trying to do a collective, trying to make change in Ireland as best they can.
As well as the numerous stars, both male and female, of which the group is composed, there have been countless high-profile additions to Saturday's gesture of solidarity towards Ireland's homeless population.
Wexford players and former players will more than play their part in the multi-town event, in what is merely the beginning for Gaelic Voices for Change's activism, but for now, every shoulder has been put to the wheel in order to ensure their inaugural event raises the maximum awareness and funding posible.
Gaelic Games are built on communities, with a collective sense of belonging and supporting your neighbour. This sleep-out is a wider expression of that ethos by the players involved, extending a helping hand to others in our community.
Gaelic Voices for Change are appealing for help with tea and coffee, food, sleeping bags, music and entertainment, and fundraising in each of the sleep-out locations.
You can also offer your support by donating online at gaelicvoicesforchange.com. All funds raised will go to homeless charities including the Peter McVerry Trust, the Simon Communities, Focus Ireland and the Capuchin Day Centre.
The group are on Twitter and Instagram at the handle @GaelicVoices4Ch.