Tuesday 24 April 2018

SVP appeals for help this Christmas

Ryan Tubridy with children from St Margaret’s School Choir, Dublin, at the launch of the St Vincent de Paul Christmas Appeal last month. Photo: Tony Gavin
Ryan Tubridy with children from St Margaret’s School Choir, Dublin, at the launch of the St Vincent de Paul Christmas Appeal last month. Photo: Tony Gavin

Ian Begley

While there is a huge focus on donating toys to children in need at Christmas, disadvantaged teenagers are often completely forgotten about.

Every year, tens of thousands of children's toys come flooding into St Vincent de Paul's (SVP) charity shops and warehouses.

But while the generosity of the Irish public is unmatched, the charity says many underprivileged teenagers feel left out during the holidays.

National SVP vice-president for members Rose McGowan is now urging the public to keep older children in mind when donating.

Student Ciara O’Doherty from Presentation College, Carlow, is a member of young St Vincent De Paul. Photo: Thomas Nolan
Student Ciara O’Doherty from Presentation College, Carlow, is a member of young St Vincent De Paul. Photo: Thomas Nolan

"Many of the families we visit at this time of year are desperately trying to cater for their small children," she said.

"However, there is often an older child in the mix, who may feel very isolated during the holidays.

"They have it extremely tough and tend to grow up very quickly in emergency accommodation or in a house with very limited space.

"Teenagers are the forgotten ones at Christmas because everyone is so focused on the younger kids," she said.

In her experience of working with disadvantaged families, Ms McGowan said that gift vouchers are always very well received with teens.

"Many people feel the need to buy gifts from toy stores, but a €30 gift voucher for River Island or Lifestyle can go a long way.

"Another thing teens love is cinema vouchers or anything they can do with a friend.

"I remember a few years ago a young lad was absolutely thrilled to receive a football jersey.

"His mother told me that it's still in and out of the washing machine every week. To think that something as small as a jersey can bring so much joy to a young person is just amazing," she said.

SVP volunteer Ciara O'Doherty (16) agrees that Christmas is just as important to teenagers as it is to young children.

"I know that disadvantaged teens would be over-the-moon being remembered at Christmas," she said.

"Although I'm sure they don't expect much, I imagine that even the smallest token of generosity would make them feel like everyone else."

The fifth-year student at Presentation College Carlow was on hand to help launch SVP's Christmas appeal in Dublin last month.

The talented teenager performed 'Shine a Light for Those Alone', a song she wrote about SVP and her experience of being involved in the charity.

This year SVP expects 50,000 families to seek its help over the winter months.

The charity's message for 2017 is 'Christmas is not the same for everyone'.

It is seeking donations to help families have a joyful Christmas with food, heat and toys.

SVP is also reminding the public that despite improvements in the economy, calls from disadvantaged families remain very high.

In November alone, the SVP East region (Dublin, Kildare and Wicklow) had almost 12,000 calls for assistance - 1,000 more than in the same month in 2016.

SVP also draws attention to the fact that it helps people not just over Christmas, but throughout the year at times when families find themselves in financial difficulties.

According to Kieran Stafford, SVP national president, a donation at this time of the year can sometimes be sufficient to ensure that individuals and families don't slip into long-term poverty.

Irish Independent

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