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Give a little more this Christmas

Although it has been a tough year for everyone, spare a thought for those who really need your help.

Dublin's volunteers are dedicated and determined to give as much as they can this festive season. Leading the way is reigning Miss Ireland Emma Waldron (21), who has volunteered for the Society of St Vincent de Paul (SVP) since she was 16 years old.

This big-hearted beauty has been involved with their youth programme for the past five years, working with children of all ages teaching them to play the violin and sing.

It is the season of giving, and Emma is urging Herald readers to take a moment and think of those who are suffering.

"Even if you can't give a lot, give something -- a small toy, food or your time. Giving your time doesn't cost anything.

"People can get involved in other ways than giving money. The more volunteers there are, the more help can be given."

The Celbridge beauty reminds Herald readers that there are people within the community who never anticipated that they would be struggling financially.

"It's in everyone's community and you never know when you'll run into trouble.

"Some people might be surviving on what they have, but if a dishwasher breaks or a child falls ill, it's an additional expense that hasn't been accounted for. That's when trouble can start, and SVDP is there for you."

"There are some families in Ozanam House [SVP's Dublin base], who never thought they'd be coming in for help from St Vincent de Paul.

"And having to ask for help can be difficult for your pride. But it's an organisation that's there to help, and it's for everyone," she says.

Christmas can be a difficult time, particularly for those with families who are keen to keep up the extravagance of years past.

"It's an expensive time for parents with buying food, and Christmas trees -- and giving presents is such a big thing. A lot of people feel under pressure to live up to how it was before, it can be very difficult for people. So we do everything we can to help," she says.

The beauty queen, who came fourth in this year's Miss World competition, says that she started volunteering with the organisation in transition year, and loved it so much, she never wanted to stop.

"I just loved it -- I think it was the kids, and it was so different. I learned so much.

"The kids are so funny. Some days, before you go in there, something would be going on, you know, but they would put a smile on your face. You leave your troubles at the door," she says.

"I work with their youth programme, teaching choir and violin."

The Bscene model is urging parents keen to give their children's teachers a Christmas present, to, instead, partake in their 'Giving Tree' scheme.

"I'm a teacher, and I'd be delighted to see someone giving money on my behalf."

"Sometimes SVP comes under criticism, but it's harsh because it does so much for those in need."

More than 9,500 SVP volunteers throughout Ireland, of all ages and from all backgrounds, provide hope every day. They depend almost entirely on donations from the public to help those most in need. And with such a large increase in the demand for their help, public support is needed more than ever.

The SVP volunteers give of their time freely so that all donations can be used for those who need the most help in every community.

They give help to individuals and families who are struggling to cope, who need financial help, who are in despair or who are alone.

> To make an online donation go to www.svp.ie/appeal > A bank donation can be made to Bank of Ireland, Phibsborough, Dublin 7. The account number is 80005599 and the sort code 90 06 23