As another busy Christmas approaches for all SVP volunteers serving those in need it is timely to reflect on this past year our 175th of service in Ireland.
During this busy year, we met many people behind the depressing poverty statistics -
• 760,000 living below the poverty line.
• Almost 110,000 working poor.
• 28% of the population experiencing energy poverty.
• 61% struggling with education costs, including 1/3 of third level students reporting that they are in severe financial difficulty.
• Over 70,000 households on the social housing list.
• Poverty among lone-parent families has doubled since 2012.
• And the most distressing and shameful statistic of them all – over 10,000 without a home including nearly 4,000 children.
We have visited someone in every one of those shameful headlines, we have seen the despair and worry of those trying their best ‘to get by’ and ensure their family have a safe, secure, warm place to live while day to day struggling to put food on the table.
These are words from someone living in poverty;
“I find life very hard not being able to pay all my bills, always putting some on the long finger. The stress makes me sick I’m always worrying knowing my kids have to go without.”
Unfortunately, we hear these kinds of quotes too often on our visits to people struggling, even though the economy is doing well the situation for those stuck in the poverty trap is getting worse. Even though these families are performing miracles every week by surviving on low incomes often in totally inadequate accommodation, some in society feel that they are to blame because they are poor. It’s a strange logic when challenged doesn’t hold water. We know that they are no different from anyone in society in terms of ability or talent; they just have not had the same opportunities and supports that many in society have enjoyed. Again, we know this because those we have helped with education support have gone on to reach their potential and gain access to a decent job giving them a life of dignity and inclusion.
Even though the bulk of the help we give is for the basics in life – food, shelter, heat, we are putting more and more focus on education supports because we know this is a way to break the poverty cycle for so many. Our education support must span the life of a student from preschool to third level. If the child is not helped in primary and secondary school, it is unlikely they will make it to third level or enter a trade that will provide great employment opportunities. Many of our members have done amazing work in supporting education in the families we visit; we need to learn from them and use their experiences and knowledge to help more.
This Christmas SVP will again ask the great public to support our work, to support those in need in their communities. The support we receive will mean thousands will be able to celebrate a Christmas with dignity, without worry, and will enable us to help them out of the poverty trap going into the New Year.
As the year comes to a close, I wish to sincerely thank all SVP volunteers who work all year round to help those in need and my thanks also extends to those who that support us in every way so that we can carry out our work.
I wish you all a happy and peaceful Christmas and best wishes for 2020.