The General Grant applications that arrive in our offices every day continue to portray a stark reminder of the poverty that remains close to the surface in the lives of too many Irish families.
The word itself, ‘poverty’, often conjures up old-fashioned and inappropriate images of a Dickensian society but what is today¹s reality?
The parameters of poverty in the 21st century have changed considerably and yet it remains as pervasive and destructive as ever.
A key aspect of evaluating poverty must surely relate to the ability to provide a home or accommodation of some sort, to eat wholesome and nutritious food, to clothe the family and at least on some level, participate in society.
It can manifest itself in simple ways, like the inability to switch on your heating or to prevent your children from attending birthday parties or school events due to the cost. The above seems so simple, reasonable and undemanding yet remains an unrealistic prospect for many people who continue to struggle in life for the basics – and struggle is the word.
I speak to so many individuals who have simply ’run out of road‘ on finances, stressing over whether to pay the rent, utilities or food but not having enough to cover all of them.
Life ends up being a constant worry about the necessity to make hard and difficult choices.
It can be tempting to blame people for their circumstances; the result of laziness, indifference or a history of poor choices, but the vast majority of cases I come across are about people in situations that would have been difficult for anyone to avoid.
Poverty has an adverse impact on families but perhaps most cogently on children.
It is one of the greatest threats, putting at risk their opportunities for a good education, physical and mental health as well as their social and emotional well-being. The applications we receive span the spectrum of life as they outline issues, some that most of us could not imagine let alone encounter. However, we also receive calls and notes from those who have been helped. It is humbling to receive those, laced as they are with appreciation and thanks.
Yet, this thanks belongs not to us but to our donors who themselves give with such grace and kindness. Without them, our task would be impossible and our motivation impeded.
For every cry for help we receive, there is another voice we hear in our daily work. A voice of kindness, generosity and compassion, that of our donors.