“We got a request a few years back from a young student in Ballybeg, who had just completed her Leaving Cert,” said Mick Hassett of the Waterford Saint Vincent de Paul (VdeP).
“She was the first member of her family to enter third level education. She wrote a letter to us asking could we help her out by providing her with a computer, which we did; she completed her studies and is doing very well now. And perhaps this is a part of the work the Saint Vincent de Paul does which isn’t highlighted enough. We’re here to help in a whole host of ways, and it’s a message we need to keep getting out there.”
Speaking to The Munster Express during the WLR/VdeP coffee morning held at The Granary on Wednesday last, Mick said the Society is proud and wholly committed in its efforts to help disadvantaged families and students alike.
“For me, education is the key. It’s the biggest social game changer we have at our disposal. And when our Education Conference is in a position to provide a grant to a student, which is issued throughout the duration of his/her time in college, that’s as important an element of our work as anything else that we’re engaged in.”
Mick became involved with the VdeP in Waterford back in 2003, and the Ballybeg area has proven his primary area of focus. “There are nine of us responsible for the area, and we always work in pairs – that’s essential. You never do anything on your own when you’re out on behalf of the Vincent de Paul. We’re a good support for each other if and when situations we face demand it. We respond to contacts made to us through our office on the Six Cross Roads and then we go and meet with people in their homes and respond to their needs as appropriately as we can – be it a food hamper, a voucher and so on.”
He added: “Having the Regional Headquarters at the Six Cross Roads is ideal for the group I’m part of, sure Ballybeg is on our doorstep, after all. All the requests for the entire region come into the Six Cross Roads and it’s great to have such a facility at our disposal. Of course, in an ideal world there’d be no need for the likes of us at all, but we’re here, the need is there, and I’d like to think that as long as that need is there, then the Vincent de Paul will be there to assist when someone needs help.”
As part of its education-related remit, the VdeP has run a Breakfast Club at Saint Saviours National School “for the better part of six to seven years at this stage”, Mick stated. “From a quarter past eight every morning of the school year, there’s a queue of pupils outside the school’s front door, waiting for their breakfast. You could have up to 80 breakfasts served every morning.”
He added: “The principal and teachers at the school have told us more than once that the first three hours of the school day, from a pupil’s perspective, tend to be the most productive – it’s the time of day they retain best what they’re being taught. And that in itself tells you how important this Breakfast Club is. To have children going to school hungry shouldn’t be the case in Ireland in 2017, but again, it’s important to let people know that this is what the Vincent de Paul does best: we respond to social need. We’re happy to help. That’s what we’re there for.”
Mick said the Society would love to be in a position to help more people. “Sure you can never do enough, to be honest. I suspect there are a lot more people in Waterford, on top of those who already benefit from our support, who could do with our help. But pride can get in the way sometimes. There really is no shame in asking for assistance, but that stigma is still there, I reckon, for some people who view it as some level of personal failure on their behalves.
But it’s not a case of having to swallow your pride to ask for help, I feel. We all need help in different ways at different times in our lives, and all we can do is let people know that we’re there, every day of the year.”
The coming days will prove a highly stressful and upsetting time for many households in Waterford, with some parents left to wrestle over what expense needs to be prioritised: be it food, heat or light.
“We’ll be making up hampers in the Mercy on Saturday, the 23rd, and the demand is likely to be similar to what it was last year,” Mick Hassett stated. “A few tins of beans, for example, mightn’t sound like much for most of us, but it could well be the difference between a family having some food on Christmas Day or having nothing at all. So if anyone reading this can make any level of donation – and all of the money raised in Waterford, along with our food and toy donations – remain in Waterford, we’d be so grateful for whatever you can give. Because every Euro does make a difference.”

If you wish to donate to the Be A Little Star WLR/VdeP Christmas Appeal,
please text APPEAL to 50300 to donate €4.