UPDATE: UL Student Life Officers attempt to live on €38.80 for Sanctuary Week

Thursday, 4th April 2019

FOR Sanctuary Week at the University of Limerick, the three student sabbatical officers at UL Student Life are attempting to live on €38.80 in an effort to stand in solidarity with those in Direct Provision.

Here, they give us an update on how they are faring with the campaign.

Lorcan O’Donnell, Welfare Officer:

Monday morning hit me like a tonne of bricks as before the week had barely started, my phone credit ran out, meaning €20.00 gone straight off the bat. Potentially could have tried to go the week without mobile internet but being in charge of UL Student Life’s social media for the week meant it wasn’t an option.

I was clutching my €18.80 tightly thinking I may need to lock it away somewhere so that I didn’t spent it unnecessarily. Luckily at our Sanctuary Week launch event on Monday, catering was provided so I was able to have my breakfast and lunch in one to cut costs.

Tuesday arrived with high hopes of keeping my wallet firmly in my pocket….until a meeting was arranged in the Scholars restaurant and social pressure meant I had to drink a coffee while there, €3 vanished. Something even so small as getting a daily or weekly coffee can cause such worry because I don’t know what the rest of the week has in store and if I’ll need it or not.

Tuesday food was sourced by attending another Sanctuary week Potluck Dinner and film screening of the documentary Human Flow. Regrettably, I was one of those ones who didn’t add anything to the potluck but took all I could! Not one of my finer moments.

One of the big criticisms this week has been the suggestion that we have been somewhat disingenuous as those in Direct Provision receive three meals a day along with shelter and bedding and that living on €38.80 isn’t a fair reflection of their lives. The harsh reality is that our students in Direct Provision miss their breakfast, dinner and subsequently their lunch in the centres as the bus that brings them to college leaves early in the morning and arrives back late in the evening. Not only this, but as a society we should be trying to find ways to integrate asylum seekers into college life. Traditionally this can be done through joining clubs or societies, or going for a pint with classmates. But for those that have to plan every detail of where their money goes and getting home in time for food, this integration of feeling like a real UL Student can be lost.

Ciara Jo Hanlon, Student Life President:

Day 3 of the #38euro80 challenge and I am now down to less than €11.10. At the start of the week I tried to think about the best way to approach the challenge. I decided to prioritise food so I did a good weekly shop thinking “if I have a stocked fridge surely I’ll get through the week” so I spent €24.60 in ALDI stocking everything from pasta, meat to fruit and veg breakfast, lunch and dinner. This morning I woke up to discover I had little to no conditioner left, something so simple yet in the scheme of living off €38.80 something that is quite costly and if anyone has ever seen my hair you will know why I’m prioritising conditioner!!

Over the past three days, friends and students have asked me about the challenge and say “How’s it going?”, “Is it actually that hard?” and my answer is yes!

I really have to stop and think. In work when someone is doing a run to the shop or when the gang are popping out for a bite for lunch, I have to stop and remind myself that I am on the challenge and that I can’t just go with them as normal and most of the eateries on campus won’t let you bring a packed lunch or your own food so that doesn’t help either. 

This made me think about how difficult it must be for our sanctuary students. What would they do if another student in their class asked them to go for lunch or grab a coffee, how difficult it must be? Torn between going with classmates or having enough money to survive the week.

These are other simple things that I have taken for granted.

Matthew Murphy, Academic Officer:

I’m down to 30 euro at this point in the week (Wednesday morning), which took me by surprise as I felt I wasn’t spending anything. I worked late Monday and Tuesday so I ended up getting snacks in the shop. I’ll have to cut that out for the rest of the week.

One small change I had to make is that I usually go swimming at lunch once or twice a week, but won’t this week. 2 swims is €6, plus it’ll make you hungrier which means more money spent in the shop. 

Tonight will be my first major challenge, as my old housemate and good friend is calling up for the night and the group chat is flat out with everyone making plans for pints in town and a pub crawl. I’m going to set aside €10 for transport in and out and not drink but this is not ideal. If I know my friends, they will eventually start offering to buy me pints. That someone will be obliged at some stage to get me one too as I can’t afford it myself. The feeling that my presence is going to create this peripheral charity case is making me feel guilty for attending in the first place.

One question I want to ask whoever is reading this is how do you earn each week? This is not a guilt trip on what you make, everybody earns their salary one way or another, but doesn’t it feel like an invasion of privacy to be asked? I myself feel a bit weird that everyone I know knows exactly how much I am on for the week, what I can spend, asking if I am hungry or did I buy anything crazy so far. Yet we all know exactly how much everyone on Direct Provision is on: €38.80. 

My second question I want to ask is how much do you want to be earning this time next year? Or in 5 years? Or 10? The answer to that one is most like ‘more’ to varying degrees. But for those trapped in the shamefully slow Direct Provision process, the answer is going to be €38.80 unless we shed some light on this issue and try and reform this system.