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COMMENT: It's the most worrying time of year

Monday, 2nd December, 2019 7:59am
COMMENT: It's the most worrying time of year

Broadcaster Ryan Tubridy pictured at the launch of this year’s St Vincent de Paul Christmas Appeal. PHOTO: COLM MAHADY/FENNELL’S

COMMENT: It's the most worrying time of year

Broadcaster Ryan Tubridy pictured at the launch of this year’s St Vincent de Paul Christmas Appeal. PHOTO: COLM MAHADY/FENNELL’S

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By Kieran Stafford

FOR the estimated 50,000 plus homes that contact the Society of St Vincent de Paul (SVP) this winter, the words of the popular song, ‘It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year’, are totally at odds with their circumstances.

For them, Christmas can be the most worrying time of the year. At the recent launch of the SVP Annual Appeal by Ryan Tubridy, we highlighted the fact that our volunteers visited 50,000 homes last year during the winter period. And with the 2019 calls for help so far running ahead of 2018, we expect that the figure for this year will increase.

These are people who want to make Christmas as special for their children and families as everyone else but lack the financial resources to meet the additional costs this time of year brings – but they are already struggling to pay for food, heating and rent.

This Christmas, SVP has again put children at the heart of its annual appeal because they are the most vulnerable and should not suffer because society has got things so wrong. This year, we hope to bring a happy Christmas to the many children living in poverty, especially the 3,873 without a home who are relying on emergency accommodation.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank the public for their generous support, which is so important for those that SVP help each year at Christmas. We recently received a letter from a family we helped, which reads: “I was really struggling when I reached out to SVP. Volunteers visited my home and helped pay for oil. A warm house took so much pressure off. I was able to get a few nice presents for the girls for a change, and we had enough for the dinner. The SVP volunteers were like Christmas Angels to us.”

I truly hope we can count on people all across Ireland to be Christmas Angels again this winter and donate to SVP so that people in their community do not go without. While donations at this time of the year are used to provide immediate relief to those in need, the long-term effect can be to prevent people falling into a downward cycle and so save them from a life of poverty.

Donations made to the annual appeal make a difference way beyond the Christmas period when we receive requests for assistance, which range from food and food vouchers to help with fuel, health and school.

As part of this year’s appeal, there will be a banner on the front of Liberty Hall playing on the building structure to show empty cupboards. This is to highlight the startling prevalence of food poverty which has increased across Ireland in recent years. Of the 150,000 calls SVP will receive for the total year, one in three will be from people without enough food.

As well as direct donations, there are other options to support our work at, including the Giving Tree Appeal, the Food Appeal and a virtual gift store.

Kieran Stafford is national president of Society of  St Vincent de Paul.

National president of Society of  St Vincent de Paul, Kieran Stafford

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