UCD Students able to Benefit from Ireland’s First Social Housing Student Development
Empower the Family Company Limited by Guarantee (CLG) is a charity founded in 2018 by Deborah Somorin with powerful and ambitious goals to assist disadvantaged young people pursue their dream education. The project has progressed exponentially since its inception in 2018 and today is the only female-led Irish company on the Forbes list this year.
“Every single person who has that determination and ability to succeed and go through university should be supported to do that,” said Somorin. “That’s how Empower the Family came about…nobody was looking at the space of social student housing.”
It is anticipated that a thirty-bed student development will be in operation in 2023 in Ballymun, with twenty apartments intended to service single mothers and the remaining ten living spaces allocated to disadvantaged young people emerging from state care.
A creche on-site will focus on alleviating the stress and costs associated with childcare for residents of the facility. Furthermore, Somorin highlighted the determination of the Board to “create a community here”. To this end, residents will have access to “shared hangout spaces and a playground in it as well”.
Empower the Family is working towards accomplishing 10 out of 17 of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs).
UCD students are suitable for the facility. Admittance to the facility is explained by Somorin. “Ultimately it will be through the UCD Access Service. We would hope to partner with them and they would then refer students that they come across that would be suitable for this.”
The idea for such a progressive, forward-thinking and necessary charity emerged from Somorin’s challenging teenage years and a determination to help those who suffer similar misfortune to herself. “I went through all of these things in that intervening period between nine and eighteen of homelessness, teen pregnancy, abuse and everything else I went through.”
Owing to her remarkable determination to succeed and strive for more positive and prosperous times, Somorin is now a Chartered Accountant working as a Management Consultant in PwC Dublin. She has been named a member of Forbes’ European ’30 Under 30 2020’ and has received many awards including the Chartered Accountants Ireland Inaugural Inspiration Award and the Outstanding Young Person Award for Ireland. Charting this spectacular rise, Somorin stated, “PwC is right next door to the Convention Centre and one of the homeless hostels I stayed in is literally down the road.”
Somorin cites a “need to help” and desire to “make an impact” as central to her endless motivation and determination, the hum of excitement in her voice reflecting her genuine passion for the project. She expressed her desire to, “get all of the right people sitting around the table to make this happen.”
Empower the Family has built a remarkable board of A-Listers in Irish Society, including UCD Law Graduate, Niall O’Sullivan, Group Chief Financial Officer (CFO) at Datalex and formerly the Google Finance Director for Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA). Gary Cooper, Development Director at Ronan Group Real Estate is another distinguished member of a board containing a potent mix of business people, developers and public sector leaders bound together by a common humanitarian desire to make a profound difference in Ireland.
They have been able to assimilate a blue-chip design team for the facility and secure €700,000 of pro bono services taking the project to the planning stage. This reflects the level of goodwill in Ireland to help the vulnerable in our society.
Somorin highlights how, “humility is really, really important to me.” This has served the board of Empower the Family well as they move inexorably towards their goals to, “educate, empower and prosper”. Somorin’s collaborative approach will provide future disadvantaged UCD students access to social housing and thus, have parity of opportunity in their studies.
Ruairi McCormack – Features Writer