I was honoured this week to be part of an Aisling assessment team which was invited to view four nominees for the coveted Aisling Wellbeing award.

What a wonder it is when you see and meet compassion in action. We visited the mental health initiative TAMHI and my imagination was fired by the creativity of the team as they engaged with the primary school pupils. The atmosphere was electric as the children engaged in play which for me was exhausting to watch, let alone participate in.

This was physical exercise at its best and we all know that a good way to get rid of stress is through physical exercise as the body keeps the score. The laughter and the smiles were contagious and I thought to myself how my mood had lifted from just being there. The staff were blessed with big hearts as you could see that they were fully present and engaged with the children like guardian angels.

Our next visit opened my eyes to the suffering of our city when I learned through the wonderful suicide awareness charity PIPS of the great work that they were doing and how the pandemic has raised the bar when it comes to increased drinking, domestic violence and suicide.

My heart goes out to their staff who are the listening ear to the stories of despair that must be unbearable for people to endure, especially in the run-up to Christmas. I was glad to hear of the excellent support that the staff were receiving in order for them to take care of themselves as they continue to listen to the broken heartbeat of our city.

We then visited a modern Holy Cross primary school for boys whose thinking is rooted in the distant past. To be or not to be that is the question and I can honestly say that this primary school got their pupils thinking by introducing philosophy into the school and weaving it throughout their curriculum.

We were brought into an oasis of philosophy. Here the children explore everything from the meaning of life to the existence of the hole in a doughnut. What a gift for the young minds to be challenged into another way of thinking. I take my hat off to the young Platos and of course the teachers who engage with this rich reservoir of wisdom. Philosophy is the love of wisdom. So keep your eyes to the north of our city for more than three wise men.

Our final visit was to what is called, for the want of a better name, a wet hostel - the Depaul Ireland Stella Maris hostel in the docks. Here was a hidden sanctuary within our city where there is always room at the inn.

Myself and the rest of the Aisling judging team were filled with a sense of awe as we listened to the stories of the residents and the gentleness and kindness that guided the professionalism of the staff. This was a place of transformation for the walking wounded of our city who receive more than a welcome on the doorstep. We heard of success for those who would have been living in despair in the prison of addiction. Everywhere I looked I could sense hope in this sanctuary.

The atmosphere was therapeutic and there was a sense of family and home.
Compassion was the ingredient that could not be measured in any of the nominees as they all excelled any measuring tool. Each and everyone from the young children to the philosophers and from despair to hope all glowed with the warmth of compassion.
I know for me at the end of our visits, I was blessed to know of some of the great work carried out by the great workers. The visits left me filled with wanting to award each and everyone of them for the great work that they are doing. These are our unsung heroes who work away for the benefits of others as they alleviate some of the suffering in our city.

Thanks to the Aisling Awards for the great work that you are all doing in recognising these saints of our city. I will be in Dublin this coming Saturday when the awards take place in the Europa but it's my hope that our nominees have the generous reception from the Aisling audience that their selfless efforts deserves.