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Dublin: 2 °C Tuesday 12 December, 2017

'How many times can you tell your children that you just don't have the money?'

In November alone, St Vincent de Paul’s East Region helpline took almost 12,000 calls.

“THE UNEXPECTED IS always very difficult for people who are on a strict budget,” says Linda Kenny, a telephone team member with St Vincent de Paul’s East Region office.

“Christmas and back-to-school times are the highest pressure points, because there are so many added costs,” she adds. “And if someone is struggling, they don’t want anyone to know.”

In November 2017 alone, the SVP’s East Region helpline had almost 12,000 calls for assistance, 1,000 more than the same period in 2016. The helpline’s yearly call total for 2017 is expected to be close to 125,000.

Parents can end up feeling hopeless and vulnerable, as Linda explains:

They’ll sometimes ask me, “What am I supposed to do? I can’t keep turning around to my children and saying, ‘I haven’t got the money, I haven’t got the money.’” How many times can you say that to your children?

In Ireland, one in nine children lacks basic essentials like adequate housing, suitable clothing and nutritious food. As Kieran Stafford, SVP President notes, financial hardship can also result in families being excluded from occasions like Christmas that others take for granted.

“Simply put, Christmas is not the same for everyone,” he says.

shutterstock_635718206 Source: Shutterstock/Al Jurina

“Parents may already feel demoralised by not being able to cover the ordinary, the necessary, and special occasions only add to that struggle. ”I remember one mother who wrote to us saying her only thought when her son took his first steps was ‘I can’t buy him shoes. I can’t clothe my own child.’”

Linda recalls another mother who had everything budgeted so tightly that even a new pair of underwear for her kids was considered a treat.

“Some people consider it the very last resort to call SVP, but there’s another, better way to look at it – that it’s confidential assistance to help with the pressures families are facing today,” says Kieran.

It’s reassurance, some advice or often just a friendly ear. People seeking SVP’s help are often on their own, and may not have friends or families they feel they can turn to. Very few of us can make it in this world without a helping hand.

Linda’s role on the SVP telephone team means she hears from callers in many different situations.

“People say to me, ‘Oh your heart must break every day listening to callers,’ but that’s not the case,” she says.

“The way I think about it is, if SVP wasn’t there, where would people turn to? You can never stop thanking the donors, or the members who go that extra mile. You can never forget the service SVP provides.”

Based on true stories from families helped by St Vincent de Paul’s East Region Office. Some details have been changed for confidentiality.

Find out more about the people SVP has helped, or click here to donate now. Remember, your ‘yes’ can last a lifetime.

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