“A lot of us grew up remembering going into the city centre and putting our money into the bucket, and it’s such an enduring campaign to help reach out especially in the spirit of Christmas”. 

“I’d never have thought when I used to give to the Black Santa collection as a teenager that I’d turn to it as an adult, with the dream of creating an oasis of peace in the city.”

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Eileen Wilson fondly remembers her visits to Belfast city centre, when she and her friends would donate their pocket money to the Black Santa cause. 

She’s now the Sustainable Living Manager of the Footprints Women’s Centre which has been providing services for women and children in the Colin neighbourhood since 1991. The Centre provides family and women’s support, crisis intervention, training, childcare, healthy living projects and volunteering opportunities. Every week over 400 women and up to 90 children are helped. 

Last year, she applied for a grant to turn part of the garden attached to the centre into a therapeutic area. She said it transformed this area into a safe space for reflection and serenity.

This year Eileen hopes the fund will be able to directly help the children who come to the centre. With everyone feeling the impact of the coronavirus, the funding the centre receives this year will be even more vital. 

“We are applying this year to support our daycare to replace the toys that are currently there. With COVID some of the soft toys were no longer suitable for shared play and other toys, books and jigsaws need to be sanitised so often that the toys have worn out. The grant would also be used for outdoor play equipment for children to get outside and have fun during these difficult times. So that is what we are hoping the appeal brings this year, replacement toys.” 

Looking after 400 women may feel like a small percentage of a country that has nearly two million people but for these 400 women and their children, this support is vital. After a year like 2020, it is invigorating to know that there are people in the world doing all that they can to spread a little cheer through Christmas and beyond. 

To find out more about Footprints Women's Centre, visit their website here.