'I'll never forget mum's face as she got amazing help from St Vincent de Paul at Christmas'
Published 09/12/2015 | 02:30
In its long history, the Society of St Vincent de Paul has helped many families in despair - and no matter how long ago it may have been, its charity is never forgotten.
The SVP first shone a light into dark times for Carol Rhatigan McCabe, from Naas, Co Kildare, and her family in 1989, when she was just 12 years old.
Volunteers visited the Esker House refuge centre, where she was staying with her mother and sister, after they fled from violence and addiction at home.
"St Vincent de Paul looked after our basic needs from the start," she told the Irish Independent. "We left with literally just the clothes on our backs.
"It was Christmas time that we fled, so I understand why it can be difficult for people for a number of reasons.
"After 13 years in hell, the first and most powerful connection was that night the SVP arrived to two tiny babies and a mom in a terrifying bubble."
Although Ms Rhatigan McCabe remembers every item in the SVP box offered to her family, it was the gesture which left a lifelong impression.
"It wasn't about the box of groceries. For my mother, they were a metaphor that she wasn't alone any more and I will never forget her face when she realised there was a team behind her.
"She was years in utter isolation. It's not about the handouts, it's about that reconnection with the world and it is lifesaving."
Ms Rhatigan McCabe wants her story to show people what happens to a child helped by the SVP, and encourage people in need to make contact with the society.
"A lot of people don't connect because they are too terrified, and it is catastrophic.
"People may not have experienced addiction or violence but everyone has experienced loneliness and isolation, and that is what the charity represents.
"It is all voluntary and I don't think they realise the full extent of what it means to those that they help.
"I have never lost allegiance to them and I know I am not alone in holding them dearly in my heart.
"I try to give back because I have never forgotten that winter."