By Ann Marie Foley - 28 December, 2014
It was great to see more school book rental schemes than ever before, and the Government committing to funding them further in 2015, Barnardos has stated in its end of year review.
Another plus was that for the first time since the recession began, Child Benefit was raised in Budget 2015, and Tusla, the Child and Family Agency, was additional funding for essential services for children, including social workers and speech and language therapy.
However, child poverty and homelessness dominated the year with one in 10 children in Ireland living without access to basic necessities.
The blame has been put on the recession yet Barnardos reported that other countries experiencing severe economic crises have not seen equivalent increases in child poverty rates.
In Dublin alone, 40 families every month are becoming homeless.
Barnardos gives examples of one little boy who missed a week of school because his parents couldn’t afford to put petrol in the car and another is wondering whether Santa will skip his house again this year.
Edmund Rice Development has stated that as 2014 comes to an end “our hearts and prayers go out to the communities in West Africa, where the horrific Ebola pandemic is affecting entire communities.”
This is one of the largest Ebola outbreaks in history and the first in West Africa, with most recent figures estimating the total numbers of deaths at over 6,000 and with almost 18,000 cases confirmed across eight countries.
Christian Brothers and members of the Edmund Rice Network in Sierra Leone, Liberia, Ghana and The Gambia have had awareness-raising campaigns, and provided sanitary materials including chlorine, food items, megaphones, hand sanitisers and buckets.
Community Youth Counsellors have been trained to provide psychological first aid and counselling as part of the healing process.
Many children have been separated from their families or orphaned as a result of the Ebola crisis and in Bo District, in Sierra Leone there are 356 such children, some of which Edmund Rice orphanages are helping.
The normal work has also continued with Edmund Rice Camps in South Africa, Training for Transformation in Zambia and the Centro Hermano Manolo in Bolivia is supporting the children and their right to fair transport charges.
Education is still part of what the brothers do and one school boy Prince, Grade 12, St. Edmund’s School, Mazabuka, Zambia said:
“The school has made me realize that nothing is impossible to achieve and the sky is the only limit although sometimes it is not, as there is heaven beyond it. This has made me to work even harder to achieve my intended goals in life. For the great work that the school has done for many other pupils and me, I feel strongly that I owe the school too much to finish paying back.”
These works have been made possible by funds donated by Edmund Rice Development from donors and by Misean Cara.
One fundraiser during 2014 involved more than 400 people who attended the first Edmund Rice Development Big Match Dinner in Croke Park in September, the weekend of the All-Ireland Football Final.
This gesture of solidarity and friendship with communities in the developing world also raised over €44,000 to benefit various Edmund Rice projects.
This year marked 25 years of Ruhama providing services to women affected by prostitution. During that time, Ruhama has assisted over 2,500 women affected by prostitution from over 60 different countries.
The charity had a lot to celebrate this year as on the 20th October, the Human Trafficking and Exploitation Bill, was voted on by MLAs at the Northern Ireland Assembly.
The Clause in the Bill which criminalises the buying of sex, received a landslide victory, with MLAs voting 81-10 in favour of laws to target sex buyers. This law will be enacted in June 2015.
At the end of November, the Irish Government published the heads of Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Bill, which, among other offences, will criminalise the purchase of sexual services.
“We warmly welcomed the publication of this Bill and while we have yet to examine the full substance of the Bill, we hope it will include provisions to decriminalise those in prostitution, in a similar way to the legislation recently passed in Northern Ireland,” stated Ruhama.
These are just some of the actions, highlights and ongoing campaigns by a few of Ireland’s charities during the year.
One thing that was significant for all charities was the setting up of the Charities Regulatory Authority (CRA) which Ivan Cooper, Director of Advocacy at The Wheel described as “a watershed moment for transparency” for charities in Ireland.