Being at the cutting edge of poverty in Ireland is not pretty. Need comes in many forms – often it’s all too easy to identify but sometimes almost impossible. Notwithstanding a 32% increase in General Grant Applications during 2014, our concern in Protestant Aid is not only about who is asking for help, but who isn’t.

So what is poverty? Very often we can have a Dickensian view of that word, picturing in our minds images that are somewhat removed from reality. In today’s society, the manifestation of poverty is more subtle than that of earlier times but devastating nonetheless. The Irish Government’s definition of poverty in its National Action Plan for Social Inclusion 2007-2016 is:

“People are living in poverty if their income and resources (material, cultural and social) are so inadequate as to preclude them from having a standard of living which is regarded as acceptable by Irish society generally. As a result of inadequate income and other resources, people may be excluded and marginalised from participating in activities which are considered the norm for other people in society.”

It simply means not having enough money to do the things that most people in Ireland take for granted. Not having the money to buy enough food for your children, not being able to afford a fill of oil or a bag of coal in winter or having to buy second-hand clothes because you can’t afford new ones.

But poverty is even more than that. If you don’t have the money to enjoy at least a limited amount of social activities with friends or family you can feel cut off from the rest of society. Not having the money to participate can then often lead to isolation, exclusion and depression.

The percentage of those ‘at risk of poverty’ actually increased in Ireland over the four years 2009 to 2012 from 14.1% to 16.5% according to the CSO, with those most at risk being lone parents, the unemployed, children under 17 and older folk over 75. These figures certain tie in with our experience in Protestant Aid and it is unlikely if 2013/2014 figures will be any better.

Thankfully, the loyalty and generosity of our donors also continues.

The online dictionary Wikipedia suggests that ‘generosity is not solely based on one’s economic status, but instead, includes the individual’s pure intentions of looking out for society’s common good and giving from the heart. Generosity should reflect the individual’s passion to help others.’

This statement accurately reflects the disposition of our donors and that kindness allows us to assist in over 1000 cases every year. They certainly give from the heart and with a passion – and for that we, and many others, continue to very grateful.