First published Wednesday, December 18, 2013
Today in amongst my usual ‘to do’ list at work, I’ve been privileged to see just how generous Pembrokeshire people are, and it is truly heartwarming to witness.
Prior to heading in to the office this morning, I stopped by the Milford Haven headquarters of the PATCH Charity. During December they co-ordinate a ‘Toy Appeal’ in addition to their usual work providing food parcels, clothing and basic household essentials for those in financial difficulty. The Toy Appeal receives donations of toys from individuals, businesses and other organisations, which are then passed on via the established referral system to families who would otherwise not be able to provide gifts for their children at Christmas. Tracy (PATCH Co-ordinator) and her team of superb volunteers have sorted through hundreds and hundreds of toys in the last few days to be given out to families within the Pembrokeshire area meaning that children across the county will be able to experience the joy of Christmas gifts next week.
Two things stood out for me during my visit. Firstly, in a ‘first world’ country, it is concerning that in this day in age, there are still families and individuals struggling so desperately to provide basic items for themselves, and by basic I mean food and clothing. We hear a great deal around job creation and economic growth in the news, but so very little about the other end of the scale, where there is genuine and life changing poverty and financial hardship facing people. Rather like issues surrounding mental health, it appears to be a taboo subject, not openly discussed or addressed. It really is time for this to change.
Secondly, I was struck by how incredibly generous and caring people in this community and county are. In addition the the huge volume of toys donated, PATCH have also received a whole host of seasonal food items to add into the food parcels issued this week. As such, those being helped by PATCH will be able to enjoy some biscuits, a Christmas pudding and a few sweets on top of the basic items found in a standard food parcel. Tracy was busy preparing several parcels this morning ready for collection by referral agents and it was clear that being able to add some festive foods, and also fresh seasonal vegetables was much appreciated.
I appreciate that not everyone celebrates Christmas, however for many that is a choice they are able to make. For those suffering financial hardship, they may not have that choice, the ability to celebrate, give gifts to children, even just eat, having been taken away from them. I should probably clarify something here too – financial hardship can happen to anyone. Poverty and financial hardship isn’t just applicable to the homeless or socially disadvantaged. PATCH have a very strictly controlled and vetted referral process, and whilst they will never turn away someone in need, they will also look to ensure that the support required is genuinely needed, and provide signposting to other services and organisations that can provide the help and guidance required to get someone back on their feet.
So, when you’re doing your final shop for Christmas, or if you’re looking to make a resolution to support a charity in some way during 2014, please consider those a little less fortunate than you. Whether it’s a couple of tins in your trolley, or a few quid each month, remember that charity begins at home, and that within our own communities and counties, there are people that need help and support to do the basics – eat, feed and clothe their family. PATCH is just one of the great charities providing this kind of support, there are many more throughout the UK. A small gesture on your behalf can mean the world to someone else.