Last year homelessness in Ireland reached crisis levels, with over 10,000 homeless people including 3,800 children. So a group us decided to try and bring Ireland’s creative community together to see if we could help in some way.
We realised that the problem with the homeless crisis isn’t one of awareness. We all hear the rising figures going out every month, and we become numb to them. For us, this is a problem of empathy. We decided that if we were to try and do something that raised money for homeless people, we should try and do something meaningful that inspired empathy too.
The result was ‘How Will Santa Find Us?’ – a children’s book that tells the story of a little girl and her brother whose family lose their home the week before Christmas.
For parents in homeless families – the idea of not being able to find somewhere to stay is heart-breaking and incredibly stressful – but homeless children still worry about the same things as other children. They still wonder how Santa will find them. So our ambition with this book was to create something that could be used to teach kids about the problem in a way they could relate to – and in a way that was still hopeful. Because hope and empathy are what will solve this in the future.
The book features beautiful artwork from nine of Ireland’s best-known illustrators. The initial character design and colour palate was established by our lead illustrator Lauren O’Neill in the opening pages, and then passed on page by page to our other illustrators. Each of them added their own unique style and flair as they take us on a journey through the children’s imaginations. All of the illustrators took the previous page and evolved the characters in such a way that there is a consistency to the story, but that is still unique and true to each artist.
The book seemed to strike a chord with people. It was shared far and wide on social media, with lots of celebrities lending their support. It featured in dozens of national press, radio and TV shows, and was personally chosen by Ryan Tubridy for the Late Late Toy Show. It became a top 10 best seller, and was named the Best Book of the Year for Children aged 5-8 by the Irish Independent.
But most importantly, it raised over €75,000 for Focus Ireland, to support vital services for homeless families all over the country.
Everyone involved volunteered their time and talent for free, and all funding was donated by companies from within the Irish creative community.