Charities give Christmas gifts of hope

Published Wednesday, 18 December 2013
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As many people are busy finishing their Christmas shopping, local charities are working hard to make the season special for those in need.

Christmas can be a lonely time for those on their own or in difficult circumstances, but in Belfast the Welcome Centre offers solace for those who are struggling during the holidays.

After experiencing a string of setbacks in his life, Geordie O'Neill found himself homeless five years ago.

"The Welcome Centre came to the rescue and they helped me get where I am today," he said.

The centre offers shelter and a warm meal for those without these basic comforts.

Connel McKenna, a volunteer explained: "On Christmas Day in particular, we try and make it as bubbly and enjoyable place to be as we can, but obviously with the issues we are dealing with here people can sometimes find it very tough at that time of year."

Sandra Moore, from the organisation explained: "You can imagine what it must be like to have to spend Christmas Day down some alley, cold and hungry. That's where we come in, we try to give as much of the Christmas spirit to people (as we can)."

It's very important that they do realise that people do care and that someone out there is making a sacrifice for them.

Sandra Moore, Welcome Organisation

Ms Moore added: "That is the greatest gift you can probably give to any of the people who come here at Christmas."

The Samaritans in Belfast are also preparing to answer calls from thousands of people over the festive period.

The regional centre received 38,000 calls last year.

Paul Wilson, who volunteers, said people call them for a variety of reasons.

"There's no single reason, around Christmas time you would get a lot of people who are maybe experiencing relationship problems, family breakdowns, alcohol abuse, loneliness even," he said.

"When you look around and see all the festivities going on it sort of really hits home that life isn't going the way you planned it. And when everyone else is caught up in those festivities it can be quite hard to find someone to talk to.

"Samaritans are there 24 hours a day just for that purpose."

At the Vineyard Church in Dungannon, they have a collection of Christmas presents and 750 hampers ready to distribute to families in need.

"Families that are really struggling at the minute, poverty is in all shapes and sizes at the moment," Sharon Cummings from the church explained.

"Single parent families are struggling, we're seeing families who have maybe suffered abuse, or there's bereavement, illness. The working poverty as well, those who are in part-time employment but not guaranteed hours, their income fluctuates each week and that's a real struggle."

Samaritans telephone: 028 90 66 44 22
They have already given 200 hampers to local agencies and on Christmas Eve the church community will come together to distribute the remaining gifts.
© UTV News
Comments Comments
L in newtownabby wrote (122 days ago):
well done all
Lorna in Belfast wrote (122 days ago):
So many worthwhile charities, I just hope people see that and give to them so as someone can benefit over the cold and lonely period of christmas. Formerly homeless I know that it actually makes a difference both at the time and many years later.
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