CHARITIES are counting the cost of the pandemic at a time when the demand for their services is greater than ever, but when limited opportunities for fund-raising are predicted to result in a £10-billion shortfall.
Those that receive much of their income at Christmas are particularly hard hit. Christingle services have generated about £1.3 million for the Children’s Society in recent years: roughly six per cent of its annual fund-raising income. Thousands of people came together in 2019 for more than 4670 local Christingle events around the country.
The director of engagement and income-generation, Joe Jenkins, said that it had been a difficult year for the charity, as there had been a drastic fall in fund-raising because of the coronavirus crisis.
“At the same time, lockdown and restrictions have left many children trapped at home, isolated from family and friends, and, in some cases, increasing the risks of abuse, neglect, exploitation, and loneliness,” he said. “These risks may have been hidden from the view of professionals like teachers and social workers who might normally spot the warning signs.
“Fund-raising events like Christingle are vital in enabling us to support these children and give them hope of a brighter future. We certainly hope that people will use Christingle to fund-raise for us this Christmas; so that we can continue our work to provide support for children and young people through the darkest of times.”
Some churches are holding traditional events, with social-distancing rules in place, but the Society is also providing churches with the resources to hold a “virtual Christingle”. Schools were still getting involved in creative ways, Mr Jenkins said, and, for the first time, the Society was holding a national Christingle service in partnership with the Church of England, on Sunday.
“People attending the online service will be asked to share a message of hope with a vulnerable young person,” he said. “In this way, we plan to make Christingle even bigger and brighter than ever before.”
The pandemic has exacerbated existing hardship in many parts of the world. The Church of Ireland Bishops’ Appeal for World Aid Development takes the form of a mother-and-child Advent appeal to raise support for initiatives connected with expectant and young mothers and the challenges they face in keeping themselves and their children safe. The reach of this appeal was debated at the Church’s General Synod last week.
In Nepal, the need is for emergency food for pregnant and lactating mothers, whose access to harvests, work, and food have been severely affected by the pandemic. In Cambodia, the appeal will support the crisis work of Tearfund Ireland; and, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, it will support Christian Aid’s work with families fleeing conflict. In Sierra Leone, the refurbishment of health clinics is the urgent priority.
The Christian homelessness charity Oasis Community Housing has found a way of presenting its Giving a Home appeal to house rough-sleepers both at Christmas and throughout 2021. Donors can “buy” the ingredients for a virtual gingerbread house being constructed online, and, for every £2000 donated, a gingerbread person will move into the house. The charity delivers food, warmth, and medicines, and provides counselling and a safe environment for 2000 people in the north-east and London.
Virtual boxes are a feature of Christmas shoebox appeals this year as an alternative to church and community groups’ physically packing them together. Operation Christmas Child’s Shoebox Online gives people the chance to select appropriate gifts for the chosen gender and age group, and to send a personal message to the recipient; 26,000 had already been filled late last month — three times the amount packed by the same time last year.
It allowed people to offer “a tangible act of kindness, even while in lockdown, which we hope will contribute to the mental well-being of children in the most vulnerable communities”, the director of Operation Christmas Child, Nick Cole, said.
Now that lockdown is over, physical boxes can dropped off at collection points across the UK until 14 December, ready to be sent to vulnerable children around the world. Ms Cole said: “Having moved our collection week to coincide with the end of the national lockdown has meant that we can ensure as many children as possible will be gifted a big smile, and feel and know that they’re loved and special.”
The international Roman Catholic volunteering organisation St Vincent de Paul (SVP) currently holds the world record for the most money raised online in 24 hours: Giving Tuesday raised £14.2 million for UK causes last year, and is widely seen as a compassionate counterpoint to the consumerism of Black Friday and Cyber Monday.
This year, its national campaign, Rise to the Challenge, spearheaded Giving Tuesday, last week, when all funds raised went towards the SVP’s Covid-19 recovery programme.
“Covid-19 has changed our way of life, and, for some of the most vulnerable people, it has been devastating,” the charity said before Giving Tuesday. “Increased financial pressures, a growing sense of isolation, and the constant fear of infection have contributed to a decline in the mental health of the nation. Giving Tuesday offers an opportunity to redress the balance and give something positive back to our communities.”
Despite having had no pilgrimages to the Holy Land since March, the McCabe Educational Trust still managed to give £265,000 to suffering communities encountered on previous pilgrimages. Its Trust reserves were now depleted, the company reported late month, and continuing lockdowns and quarantines could mean little or no income for many months to come.
“If you think the situation in the UK has been grim, it has been even worse in places like Israel and Palestine, where there has not been the government support available,” the charity said.
Its Christmas Appeal 2020 seeks to raise £85,000 to help maintain its quarterly grants to communities in Bethlehem and Bethany; to support five sponsored children in India; and to keep a discretionary fund for ad hoc needs, besides continuing to pass on dedicated funding to school, hospital, and rehabilitation projects.
The Salvation Army’s secretary for communications, Lt. Col. Dean Pallant, said late last month that the first priority during the pandemic remained the safety of its bands and the public, but there was concern about the loss of income.
“Christmas carolling in the streets and shopping centres of the UK raises £3 million a year; we anticipate this figure will be much lower this year,” he said. “We are encouraged that small bands — subject to local authority permission — will be able to return to town centres in England and Wales, and we hope in the time that is left they will still be able to raise much needed cash for our frontline services.
“However, this is exactly why our national Christmas appeal is so important this year, as people can still donate towards our vital work. It is needed more than ever to support those hardest hit by the pandemic, like struggling families relying on our foodbanks, rough-sleepers needing a hot meal, or isolated older people needing doorstep friendship.”