Christmas Hamper Appeal

January 12, 2012

For some, ’tis the season to be jolly’. But for others Christmas is just a further compounding of the hardship heaped upon them by these desperate financial times. So when it comes to lending a hand, in the words of Tesco, ‘Every Little Helps’. One woman doing more than her share is Helen Walsh, a celebrity trainer who runs a Christmas Hamper Appeal out of the YMCA in Sandymount on Clairemount Road.

“I was sick about 12 years ago” she says, “and I was watching the Oprah Winfrey show, and it was about all these people who had collected stuff for the poor. And it had made such a huge difference. And I thought I wanted to make a bigger difference.”

She started by collecting stuff for older people. “Woolly gloves, luxury tissues, stuff they had stopped spending money on themselves.” That first year she made 10-15 hampers. Then people started knocking on her door. “They started saying, ‘well this family don’t have any food. Or they don’t have this, they don’t have that’. So people started giving me stuff to give to other people.”

Last year she ended up with 149 hampers, each one containing a decent weeks shopping and a Christmas Ham and Turkey.  “We give them enough to tie them over for a week to ten days and the money they can save on their shopping is enough to be able to get a toy for a kid. Or pay a bill and take the pressure of.”

When Wash started taking part in the actual deliveries two years ago she saw levels of poverty that she didn’t think existed.

“I knocked on one door and this young woman, her husband was paralyzed in a car accident and she had two young kids. When we opened the door and handed her the hamper she started to cry. It was three days before Christmas and when she opened her fridge all she had a Satsuma and a pint of milk in the fridge. I was left with marks on my shoulder and my neck; she was gripping me so hard.

“It turns out she had no toys for the kids. And that’s what she was really freaked over. This was a woman sitting in panic thinking ‘where is it going to come from’. She couldn’t get out. She was nursing her husband 24/7.”

They say pride comes before the fall. In Ireland it can last long after. “We need to keep an eye out for one anther” says Walsh. “If you think a family is in trouble don’t be afraid to knock on the door with a cake, or with something small. Say “I cooked a couple of extra mince pies and I made you some’. We need to stick out necks out more for our neighbours. When someone is in trouble the biggest thing that can be done for them is to show that you notice and that you care.”


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