This Dublin mother found herself alone with five children many years ago. But Bernie never gave up on their hopes and ambitions. She is the first to say they would not have become a reality without the army of generous hearts that keep SVP marching. And she never dared to dream just how much your support might mean in the end...
"I was left on my own with the five of them. It was tough. I worked at night in Penny's. I'd cycle into town and back every evening. Then I'd clean the pub across the road the following morning - and that was just to keep the roof over our heads. I'd always be worried they'd be at the door looking to cut the electricity off."
One day the worry became too much. The first time Bernie came to SVP she just needed someone to talk to. Just to share her problems brought her so much relief. But, as well as a kind ear, generous people like you were there for this hardworking mother. Your support also helped put food on the table and coal in the fire.
"If there was no Vincent de Paul around here, there'd be nothing," she says. Too many children in the neighbourhood didn't finish school, but nothing mattered more to Bernie than education - a future for her shining lights. And none shone brighter for Bernie than her twin boys. "I was told in second class that they were extremely bright," she says. When they topped the entrance exams for secondary school her heart swelled with pride - but the shadow of worry was always there. How would she cope with the price of books? Uniforms?
She'll never forget that kind-hearted SVP supporters like you were there again. "I got all their books. I got two second-hand uniforms. And I even got two schoolbags," she says. Before long the boys were named 'Students of the Year'. "They must have got hundreds of awards in school," she says, beaming.
The boys continued to do her proud. She remembers the day her Séamus told her he was offered a place at university. But joy soon became dismay when Séamus said he was considering saying no. "He didn't want to be a burden on the family," she says.
In truth, they couldn't afford college, but she also couldn't bear to see Séamus not fulfil his potential. So, she turned to SVP again and was told about the bursary for higher education. Students that have been accepted for a third-level course can apply and applications are reviewed on a case-by-case basis.
She hoped against hope, but never assumed. Then one day her miracle came - a small monthly bursary to cover living expenses. It would still be a struggle, but it meant Séamus could follow his – and Bernie's - dream.
Since then, he's achieved so much. It took a lot of hard work. A lot of sacrifice. And he says he couldn't have done it without your support.
He's lecturing in English now and studying a PhD. Bernie bursts with pride when she tells us, but she's prouder still of what Séamus is doing closer to home.
He teaches girls and boys in the community. "People around here haven't got the money for grinds," she says, "so Séamus helps children for just a few euro – for whatever their parents can afford."
Because you were there, a mother's life was changed. And because you were there for Séamus, this generous young man can now give other children the help they need.
That's the power of your generosity. It can ripple through families. Communities. Generations. Please know that these SVP stories only happen because of you. Thank you for all you do.
Please consider a gift today and help ensure people like Bernie and Seamus receive the support they need. Thank you.