Published 03.09.2018
by Kids’ Own

Focus Ireland book project with children experiencing homelessness

Kids’ Own in partnership with Focus Ireland embarked on a new bookmaking project in July with children experiencing homelessness. Writer Mary Branley and artist Maree Hensey worked alongside the children to offer them a place for their unique creative expression and to give dignity to their experience and their voice. Over six days the children took part in a series of workshops with the artists, starting with games and activities to make them feel safe and welcome. Storytelling and conversations helped everyone to get to know each other. The direction of the project was determined by the children’s voices and interests, with their writing and artwork at the heart of the process.

process image from I HOPE YOU GROW book project

The project aimed to support children experiencing homelessness to have a memorable and rewarding experience and to encourage a sense of community and feeling of support among participating children and families. Through the creative process, the project sought to nurture confidence, resilience and self-esteem among the children. It is hoped that the publication will contribute to the national conversation, increasing awareness around the issues facing families experiencing homelessness and the impact of homelessness on children.

The project took place in the Carmelite Community Centre in Dublin and was fully funded by Focus Ireland.

Reflections by project writer Mary Branley and project artist Maree Hensey

Deep listening means opening all the centres of awareness to what is present, what is underneath, what is alive. It starts the process of trust in ourselves and each other, to move through time and space with shared perceptions. We welcome others into that awareness so that we can all be ourselves, get to know one another through the process of mark making, making friends, pouring thoughts and feelings onto paper.


We started the workshops with a circle and ended with a circle.

Our process as writer and artist unfolded through:

  1. Deep listening, physical, emotional
  2. Exploration
  3. Conversation
  4. Collaboration
  5. Responsiveness
  6. Flexibility
  7. Openness
  8. Trust.

At the end of each day, a question:

What did we not do today that you’d like to do tomorrow? So it unfolded. So began the flow of children from inside to outside, room to garden. The process was deeply rooted in the garden, the space, the colour, the texture allowing for richness and individual responses, friendship, safety, belonging, growth, humour, fun, challenges, movement.


The flow too of tuning in to ourselves and one another, bringing our thoughts and our focus inside our hearts, in our imaginations, flying out the window, turning into butterflies, into silver scaled fish and pouring these experiences into marks and words and sharing jokes, and laughter. The flow of energy moving between visual and literary explorations.

The materials we brought into the space were a result of the journeys we made through our meditations, the children’s mantras, the children’s vocabulary, words like: transition, fading out, movement, water, watery. The natural elements that presented themselves, air, water, earth, were represented in the materials used, water, ink, soil, acrylic paints, mono-print, charcoal, watercolours. The collaborative journey allowed us to flourish, to explore, to question, to feel and to enquire. There were no instructions or rules as to how we would work.

“You make a mark on a page or in the space. This moment is the beginning of a wonderful journey of discovery and self-expression. The mark is yours whether it is a response to a colour, flower, or emotion. It is yours.” The mark making charted every movement, every sequence of thoughts. It was a language without words.