“Kindness shone a bright light in the Covid darkness in terms of the fantastic response to JRS Ireland’s 2020 Christmas Toy Appeal,” according to the Jesuit Refugee Service, Ireland.
The JRS Ireland Christmas Toy Appeal has traditionally delivered age-appropriate presents, which have been bought and donated by JRS partners and supporters, to children and teenagers living in Direct Provision. However, the 2020 appeal had to be adapted to ensure compliance with public health restrictions so donors undertook a very successful fundraising drive on behalf of JRS Ireland.
“Jesuit schools were once again to the fore,” says David Moriarty of JRS Ireland. “In Belvedere College SJ, the campaign was overseen by Eoghan Keogh and Pádraig Swan, exceeding all fundraising targets set. Martina Crawford coordinated the fantastic efforts by the students of Gonzaga College SJ. In Limerick, the generosity of students, staff and the wider Crescent College Comprehensive SJ school community in supporting the Crescent Christmas Pyjama Appeal, organised by Grainne Delaney, ensured every resident in Knockalisheen Direct Provision centre received a gift.”
Jesuit Works also contributed to the success of the appeal, with Kevin Hargaden, Director of the Jesuit Centre for Faith and Justice, leading the effort. Business partners, such as A&L Goodbody, contributed too, focusing their efforts on supporting teenagers living in Direct Provision.
More than 7,300 men, women and children live in the high risk congregated setting of Direct Provision, according to David who notes that “Over the past year, all of us suffered as a consequence of the Covid-19 pandemic. But residents in Direct Provision faced additional challenges associated with institutional living in the State’s accommodation system including overcrowding, insufficient private living space and the inability to prepare their own meals in many centres.”
Adherence to public health guidance, particularly social distancing in such circumstances has been very difficult, and so Christmas provided an opportunity for JRS Ireland to reach out to vulnerable individuals, children and families seeking protection in Ireland.
Eugene Quinn, JRS Ireland National Director, acknowledged the extremely generous response to the 2020 Christmas Toy Appeal by so many:
“On behalf of more than 600 asylum-seeking children and their families residing in Direct Provision and Emergency Centres in Dublin, Kildare, Portlaoise, Meath, Westmeath, Monaghan, Louth, Wicklow, Cork, Limerick, Clare and Tipperary who received a gift this Christmas, JRS Ireland would like to express our gratitude and appreciation to the individuals, schools, students, parents, communities, businesses and colleagues in Jesuit works that supported the 2020 Toy Appeal so generously.”
Eugene says that the beginning of the New Year was also an opportunity to put on record the gratitude of JRS Ireland to all who supported their work ‘to accompany, to advocate and to serve’ asylum seekers, refugees and forced migrants in Ireland during 2020. “Finally, with the Covid vaccine offering hope for a safer future, we wish all a very Happy and Healthy 2021!”