Lending a Helping Hand at Christmas

Christmas only happens one day of the year, but thanks to its presentation, the atmosphere can be felt earlier and lasts longer. We see the decorations not only in our own homes, but in every public place imaginable.

After coming in contact with tinsel, lights and holly for weeks in advance, Christmas Day brings us the things we’ve been looking forward to most, family, dinner and presents. But for those who are not fortunate enough to enjoy Christmas’ grandest traditions, the simple things that we look at as ornamental hype can make all the difference.

The Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (ISPCC) is inviting the public to buy a personalised brand of Christmas cards this holiday season. Lisa Collins, the Information and Policy Officer at the ISPCC, told The College View that the cards were designed by “some very young supporters,” who were discovered through the ISPCC Christmas Card Art Competition this year.

The proceeds from the cards will go to funding the ISPCC’s activities, including the well-known Childline service. For many children, Christmas is not a time when it is easy to find someone to talk to. On Christmas Day last year, 1,387 calls were made to Childline.

“Some young people may be lonely,” said Collins. “There might be more alcohol in the house, which can cause problems for some.” Collins added that the Childine volunteers that work on Christmas Day are “very committed and passionate.”

For students hoping to make a difference in spite of gloomy financial forecasts, buying a Christmas card from the ISPCC might be the answer. For students that are really strapped for cash, wearing a holly pin can show support at a cost of only €2.

In those Celtic Tiger days, the budgets were kinder, and our memories of those times aren’t just in our minds’ eyes. Chances are, there are mementoes from previous Christmas periods at home, such as toys, books and clothes.

If these things are doing little more than gathering dust in the cupboard, then maybe it’s time for them to become holiday gifts again. This year, RTÉ 2fm is once again running the Toy Appeal for the Society of St Vincent de Paul (SVP), with the aim of giving every child a toy this Christmas.

The toys have already been sent from their collection points, and they will be making their way to an SVP office soon. SVP spokesperson Jim Walsh told The College View that student assistance at this stage is “something that wouldn’t go amiss.”

“There is lots of work to be done in different areas,” Walsh said. Toys need to be sorted into age appropriate categories, and donation collections are widespread at the local level.

Collecting donations might sound like a job for the brave, but you can come in contact with some very generous people as well. Last year, author Marian Keyes donated €25,000 to St Vincent de Paul during the Christmas period. This amount came from the royalties earned from her recent book: Saved by Cake.

Charity begins at home, and continues all year round. SVP volunteers’ most familiar roles are as visitors in needy homes. Students who spend enough time with the organisation can get the chance to bring happiness where it’s really needed.

“There’s a pattern to the people that St Vincent de Paul supports,” Walsh said. “They can just about survive on social welfare, but something as simple as the washing machine breaking down can lead to disarray.”

For some people, the holiday season is a challenge, and with our help, they can enjoy Christmas the way it’s always meant to be.

Aaron Mc Nicholas

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