“We would normally have 30 to 40 requests for Christmas support,” says Deirdre Walsh, Centre Manager of Whiterock Children’s Centre. “So far this year we have had over 200 and it’s only the start of December.”
Every year hundreds of people across West Belfast struggle to make ends meet, particularly at Christmas time.
This Christmas, the Whiterock Children’s Centre have teamed up with the Andersonstown News and Ulster Bank, Andersonstown Road branch, to help make Christmas a bit better for those less fortunate. Whiterock Children’s Centre has been helping local families in need for almost thirty years.
The Andersonstown News met with Deirdre Walsh, Manager of Whiterock Children’s Centre this week, to find out how we can help.
Deirdre said: “This could happen to anyone, from any walk of life. We have had people who are in full-time employment come to us for help.
“We also have people who have experienced a mix-up with their tax credits or benefits and their money has been stopped. Maybe someone has just lost their job and they have to wait 13 weeks for money.
“It just takes one or two things to go wrong and people find themselves in difficulties.”
Deirdre continued: “We have been doing this for a few years now and we would ask people to donate what they can. This can be anything from food (non perishable) to toys, clothes, pyjamas and vouchers.
“Vouchers are a wonderful gift as they allow people to make their own shopping choices while keeping their dignity and pride. Vouchers from all major supermarkets such as Asda, Sainsbury’s and Tesco are really welcome as are vouchers from clothes shops.”
When it comes to buying clothes most people buy for young children, however, Deirdre says that teenagers should not be overlooked.
“Everybody thinks of small children but if you’ve a 16 or 17-year-old they are really hard to provide for. You can’t hand them a toy or something small.
“At 14, 15 and 16 image is everything, young people face a lot of peer pressure so any vouchers for clothes shops would be gratefully accepted. It’s about trying to lessen the burden for people.”
As well as food, toys, clothes and vouchers, the Whiterock Children’s Centre also purchases gas and electric for those in need.
“The majority of people who come to us have been referred through the family support hub or through the family support workers in Sure Start,” said Deirdre.
“We deliver items discreetly as some people may feel embarrassed, which they shouldn’t but it’s just human nature.
“It really means the world to people when they know they are getting some help, they know they aren’t on their own. We never turn anyone away.
“The majority of people will try and buy presents but then that leaves no extra money for anything else. What’s the point in having presents if you’ve no gas, electric or food?
The cut off for donations is Friday December 15th. If you would like to make a donation, items can be left in to the Whiterock Children’s Centre, the Ulster Bank, Andersonstown Road branch or the Andersonstown News office, 2 Hannahstown Hill, or our Kennedy Centre Kiosk.