With Christmas only a matter of weeks away, the Society of St Vincent de Paul (SVP) says it is expecting 50,000 families to seek its help throughout Ireland over the winter months.

Ryan Tubridy receives Honorary Life Membership of the Society of St Vincent de Paul from Kieran Stafford.

Ryan Tubridy receives Honorary Life Membership of the Society of St Vincent de Paul from Kieran Stafford.

The society’s annual appeal was launched by Ryan Tubridy. The Society surprised the Late Late Show host by presenting him with Honorary Life Membership, the first award of its kind by SVP.

SVP national president Kieran Stafford said that the award was made in recognition of his valuable support to the Society and all the people it helps.
In the run-up to Christmas, the SVP Annual Appeal message this year is “Christmas is not the same for everyone.” The Society is seeking donations to help families and individuals in need in communities across Ireland.
According to Mr Stafford, “the generous support of the Irish public is so important for those we help each year at Christmas.”
SVP is also drawing attention to the fact that it helps people not just over Christmas but also throughout the year at times when families find themselves in financial difficulties.
  “A donation to SVP at this time of the year can sometimes be sufficient to ensure that individuals and families don’t slip into long-term poverty,” said Kieran Stafford.
  He added, “While our immediate concern is to help families avoid an empty Christmas our longer-term focus is on helping families to break the cycle of poverty.”
  Commenting on the current level of requests for help to SVP Mr Stafford said, “Despite improvements in sections of the economy calls for help to St Vincent de Paul remain very high. We expect to receive an estimated 125,000 calls for help again this year.
  “Because austerity and poverty no longer figure in news headlines it is easy to forget that there are still thousands of people who continue to live in hardship and with limited income.
  “As members of St Vincent de Paul, we strive to understand people’s experience of poverty, whatever the cause from the viewpoint of what we can do to help rather than ponder on how they came to be in a position where they seek help from strangers.
  “Like for example the mother who after a number of attempts to make that call for help to us finally wrote; ‘Then one day I couldn’t take any more. The electricity bill came in the door along with the TV licence bill, tax for the car and our mortgage was due.  And on top of it my son started walking! I know, something that should have been the best moment in my life, but all I could think of was “I can’t buy him shoes”. I was so ashamed of myself. I couldn’t clothe my own child’.
“She was not alone. She is one of the many, many, people who over the years have sought help from what they saw as their last safety net, the Society of the St. Vincent de Paul.
  “Irish society cannot and must not accept that living in, or on the verge of, poverty is normal, whether that manifests itself in going without food, resorting to moneylenders, struggling to pay school and other education costs, rough sleeping, living in emergency accommodation or living in rented accommodation which is cold, damp, dilapidated or overcrowded.
  “It is these circumstances that SVP volunteers face all too often and try to offer whatever help they can in a caring and understanding way.
“We depend almost entirely on donations from the public and corporate supporters in order to be able to provide this help.  We ask people who want to support our work to please say yes to our Annual Appeal and give locally or online.”
Nichola Mullen, head of SVP fundraising, commented that in addition to making donations directly there are other options to support on the Society’s website www.svp.ie/appeal. These include the Giving Tree appeal, the Food Appeal and a virtual gift store.