Not all kids experience the magic of Christmas

Volunteer Gabrielle Geraghty
Volunteer Gabrielle Geraghty

More than 2,500 children are expected to contact Childline over Christmas Eve and Christmas Day as demand for the service surges at this time of year.

The calls usually come from children who are at their most vulnerable over the festive period, according to one volunteer who’ll be working for the ISPCC’s service this Christmas.

The contacts are generally at the most serious end of the scale as children experiencing abuse have nowhere else to turn, said volunteer Gabrielle Geraghty.

“When children are ringing over the Christmas period there is usually something up,” she said.

“Definitely, the children who are calling us on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day aren’t just calling for a chat.

 “Most often they’re children who are not experiencing the joys of Christmas in the way that all children should.

“Emotions and problems at home can become very heightened during the Christmas period and if a child is experiencing physical, emotional or sexual abuse in the home that doesn’t generally change because it’s the festive season.

“Children who are experiencing abuse may also be affected by it more because they know that their friends are playing with toys and opening presents.”

Gabrielle says that issues volunteers encounter at this time of year are varied and would include children who are struggling with bereavement, alcohol or drug abuse in the family home, arguing and fighting at home or mental health issues.

“What we would often get is an older child ringing because they are concerned about a younger sibling,” Gabrielle added.

“When you’re taking calls like this you realise that not all kids are experiencing the magic of Christmas as kids should be. But it is rewarding and a privilege to be part of their world.

“And as a mother it made me realise that half the time you don’t know what kids are thinking.”

Gabrielle joined Childline after hearing that the children’s charity was in need of new volunteers.

 “My own kids were growing up and I wanted to do something. Then I heard a radio programme about how the ISPCC was looking for volunteers and I was blown away by the services they offered.”

Gabrielle, a trained volunteer with seven years’ experience working with Childline, is one of dozens who will be taking calls and interacting with children via the charity’s web and text services this Christmas.

It’s a service that’s badly needed, said ISPCC CEO Grainia Long, who is relieved the charity is in a healthy enough position to remain open over Christmas.

Last year they ran a campaign to raise desperately needed funds in order to keep providing their services over the festive period – an appeal that was supported by the Sunday World.

“The need is there. The figures are high. Last year we had over 2,500 contacts between Christmas Eve and Christmas Day and we would expect similar numbers this year,” said Grainia.

“We’re starting to see a lot of contact via text and webchat, which gives the children who confide in us another form of confidentiality.

“Our volunteers put themselves forward because they know if a child is calling us over Christmas, that call needs attention.

“Children who are contacting us at this time of year tend to have a greater intensity of need.”

“The service was under real threat last year and we’re very fortunate to have raised enough funding to guarantee the service this year.

“Eighty per cent of our funding comes from the generosity of the Irish public and Irish organisations and we’re very grateful for their support.”

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