Laura: Hi Mel, firstly can you tell me about the particular challenges for these women at this time of year?
Mel: Ok, this is my first Christmas at One25 and what strikes me first of all is that the women can get really anxious around Christmas. It can be a time of great sadness. It’s almost a remembrance of loss, isolation, loneliness. It can be really difficult. Some of these women aren’t going to have a Christmas outside [One25]. It might be because they haven’t got any close family, any close friends: any sort of family or relationship breakdowns are always really highlighted at Christmas. They may be homeless or vulnerably housed, living really chaotic lives. So we put everything we can into making sure that it’s the best experience that they can have at that time of year.
Laura: So what’s the plan?
Mel: Firstly, we carry on doing what we do, giving support to the women right up until Christmas day. We try to keep the drop-in space open as much as possible over the Christmas period. The outreach van runs all the way through Christmas apart from Christmas day and Boxing Day and New Year’s Day. We just want to make sure that women can access our services as much as possible.
“We’ve bought a 60 track karaoke Christmas extravaganza CD so there’s not going to be any Christmas song unturned!”
Also, we’ve got so much stuff going on! We have the women’s Christmas lunch next Wednesday (17th) – there’s a huge amount of work going into that. It’s going to be a traditional Christmas with lots of lovely food and presents for the women. We’ve got various churches outside of One25 donating gifts. We’ve got volunteers coming in and helping serving and with entertainment. We will be holding a massive sing-along karaoke Christmas which I will be heading which I’m really excited about! Although I can’t sing. But we’ve bought a 60 track karaoke Christmas extravaganza CD so there’s not going to be any Christmas song unturned!
So it’s really about creating a really fun and loving atmosphere, a lot of social togetherness and compassion while being sensitive. It’s a really fine balance. What the women don’t want is to get Christmas rammed down their throats, so it’s being really sensitive to their needs and ensuring that they get the service that they deserve and a good time to remember.
“It’s really about creating a really fun and loving atmosphere…a lot of social togetherness”
And then we have the children’s party which is on the 22nd December. The children’s party is slightly different: it’s for women and their children who no longer access drop-in. Some don’t have their kids in their care so it’s an important rare time together. A lot are in recovery, they’re doing well, and just value this opportunity to spoil the kids. The kids get presents (this year donated by the Bank of Ireland) which are given out by Santa, there’s lots of activities and we get a magician coming in! We’ve got pass the parcel, lots of games, nice food. Apparently it’s utter chaos but it’s brilliant! So I’m really looking forward to that.
Laura: So you think it’s going to be a good turn-out?
Mel: Yeah, already we’ve got 28 women on the list for the women’s Christmas party and about 12 or 13 for the children’s Christmas party. But you never know… we cater for 35 on the women’s and we try and keep it so as many women can come as possible. So case workers and frontline staff will be down joining in but we don’t want there to be lots of staff, lots of volunteers, lots of trustees and ten women… because it’s their time. Those two days are specific days for our women and their children to come in and just be really spoiled.
Laura: Excellent. Sounds fantastic. So, if you could have a little message for the supporters that are making this possible, what would that be?
Mel: My message is carry on supporting One25. Every bit of help, whether it be financial, whether they’re giving gifts, whether people are going out and giving talks, really helps our cause. And we are seeing really positive effects, not only in drop-in but in the van as well. We’re getting more new women coming in and accessing the service. We’re getting women returning to the service who are all trying to get support and eventually move away from life on the streets. And that would not be possible if it were not for the hard work of the volunteers, the funders, the people that support the cause. We wouldn’t be able to do it without them… they are making really positive changes to these women and their families’ lives.