London Irish Centre were visisted by Labour Party leader Sir Keir Starmer recently when he witnessed the centre’s work of delivering meals and food parcels to those in need during lockdown.
London Irish Centre CEO Ellen Ryan said: “It was a great privilege to have Sir Keir. He has come to our events in the past so he has a connection with us. It was really good to see him taking an interest in the work we’re doing in the crisis.”
The centre partnered with Camden Council early in the pandemic to become a community hub delivering food parcels to those who were isolating or shielding, delivering many thousands of meals throughout the first lockdown and again in the current lockdown. This was a lifeline for many older Irish who live alone.
“The social isolation and loneliness is phenomenal for people who are living alone. We felt it was really important we protected them as best as we could.
“Food poverty is extraordinary at the moment. We’re also trying to help other communities so when we receive food, we distribute it and we work with agencies to make sure families experiencing food poverty get the food that they need.
“What has struck me has been the bravery and resilience that I have seen in the staff and volunteers, in the community. And the support we have had from donors. We have seen the best of the community come out.”
The pandemic also forced the centre to move much of its other activities such as advice and cultural services online while also greatly expanding its telephone befriending service. While they could open their community cafe in September to allow people to come in and avail of the food and also much needed social contact while also observing Covid safety guidelines this has also had to close due to lockdown.
“I think loneliness and isolation is the next big factor and that’s what we’re trying to focus on now: How do you help people connected going forward? How do you help people have a sense of hope for the future?”
The centre is working on a Winter Wellbeing Programme that will include a programme of music, culture, wellbeing talks and mindfulness sessions.
“We will come through this and we will build back better and stronger. For us, culture and heritage is part of that recovery.”
The centre is now appealing for help in advance of Christmas: “We are doing everything we can to support those who are vulnerable at this time. We cannot do this alone. With the support of the community, people helping out in whatever ways they can, we can continue to connect people and ensure they get the support they need to get through Christmas.
“With a year of fundraising events cancelled, including our Christmas specials, we urgently need your help.
“As many Irish people, particularly the older generation, live alone across London, this Christmas will be especially difficult as loneliness and isolation sweeps the city. Our services are needed more than ever. With your support, we will ensure that no one is left behind or forgotten.
“Our essential services will keep the lights on for the community, tackling severe loneliness, boosting resilience and avoiding longer term mental ill health and physical decline.”
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