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“Put the shame in the pocket”

SUDDENLY money has become very scarce for many people and hard choices are having to be made in a lot of households.

Ciara (not her real name) is a full-time carer living in Ennis, while her partner has now been put out of work, leaving them very reliant on the Mid West Simon Food Bank.

She has been through hard times quite often in the course of her life, often having accessed services from Simon in the past, and the charity have helped her with various issues. “I live with my partner who did work, and the Foodbank is very good since the work stopped. Now the work is cut back and he didn’t qualify for the €350 because he wasn’t working in March or February. He’s back on the JobSeekers now so it’s very handy with the Foodbank, it used to be once every two weeks but now it’s once a month. Things I don’t use I’d pass onto family and if they don’t use it, they give it to someone who will,” she says.

Cigarettes are an expensive and unhealthy habit and she has had to cut them out. “I’m a smoker and the smokes are gone out the window at the moment. You have to prioritise, which is more important, your bit of food and the ESB or fags. To me, my belly is more important than a fag. You have to have your priorities.”

A concern for Ciara now is that Simon does not have the resources that it had just before the lockdown began, and much of its income evaporated. “They’re not able to get stuff delivered to them now because they don’t have the money. Before you’d get your sugar and all that, but because the funding isn’t there now you just get the bare minimum, your cornflakes and your peas and beans and perishables. The things they used to be able to give out before, the money isn’t there for that now. They still have to pay for petrol and things, but their donations have gone down.”

While she freely admits having used the Food Bank regularly in the past, she says she did not abuse the opportunity to get free provisions. “When I didn’t need them, I haven’t gone there. There’s no point in getting something you don’t need and piling up the presses when someone else needs it.”

To put it mildly the economic shock of Covid-19 has been sharp and more people need what is on offer if they genuinely need it, she says. ” An awful lot of people have been made unemployed. I was talking to one or two girls and I told them about the Simon, they said ‘Jesus, I wouldn’t go there now’. I told them, put the shame in the pocket. Go in, everyone needs a bit of help sometime, you need to be asking for it. They are good and they will listen to you. If you can’t go in, they will facilitate you, find some way of getting it to you.”

While many people don’t have the resources to be thinking about helping charities at the moment, she appeals to those who do to bear Simon in mind. “I know people don’t have as much to donate now, but every fiver counts, every penny counts really. I know every business is struggling but every few pence counts. It makes an awful difference to me and an awful lot of the wider community in County Clare.”

Ciara feels that people who have never been in a real financial tight spot shouldn’t be too proud to take help they genuinely need. “Working people find the services good as well. Everyone should go if they need it and put the shame in the pocket.”

Owen Ryan

About Owen Ryan

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Owen Ryan has been a journalist with the Clare Champion since 2007, having previously worked for a number of other regional titles in Limerick, Galway and Cork.