Santa Claus paid a surprise visit to lots of happy children and their families at the former Montague Hotel in Laois with Feed Our Homeless volunteers last week.
The voluntary group planned the visit to the direct provision centre a month ago and organised collection points for toys and selection boxes in schools and shopping centres around the town.
Santa arrived at the hotel when one little boy playing in the foyer. When he realised that Santa was standing beside him his face lit up and he began to jump up and down with excitement before running off to gather his family and friends.
Shortly afterwards almost 30 children came from their hotel rooms to see Santa Claus beside the centre’s Christmas tree. Each child received a selection box, treats and an age appropriate toy.
Tony Walsh is a founding member of Feed Our Homeless.
“It was very lifting to be able to put smiles on all of those children’s faces in Laois today. We want to thank Tom Duffy for tirelessly running the campaign and the good people of Laois for their kind support and generosity over the past month.
“Staff and pupils at Portlaoise College, Portlaoise Educate Together, Portlaoise CBS, Holy Family Junior and Senior Schools got on board and collected so many items for our homeless people and management at Laois Shopping Centre, Mulhall’s SuperValu and Dunne’s Stores Kyle Centre allowed the fantastic volunteers in Laois to hold appeals in their premises. Thank you to everyone,” he said.
Local man Tom Duffy ran the appeal in Laois.
“It was a great feeling to see the excitement on the children’s faces. They were overwhelmed and happy. We were delighted to be here with Santa today to help him give toys and selection boxes to the children. They’re all really delighted with themselves. I want to say a huge thank you to all the wonderful people of Laois who donated so much for this great cause.” He said.
Volunteer Patricia Murambinda was a resident at the Montague Hotel for eight years before receiving her papers in October.
“It went great. The children and their families are very happy. Everyone is so grateful to the people in the wider community who thought of them at Christmas time. Living in hotel rooms is not healthy physically or mentally, I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. It is very distressing for a family to be living in one room. Most cases last for many years.” she said.
Good news could be in the pipeline for asylum seekers in Ireland as Minister for Justice and Equality Charlie Flanagan launched a new information, advice and support service for migrants living in Portlaoise recently.
“I acknowledge there are difficulties and delays in having applications dealt with from start to finish in the course of our court processes. During the summer I met with the presidents of the courts. I’m very keen to ensure that applications for people seeking refugee status or asylum in Ireland be dealt with within a period of nine months. We’re not there yet, but I’m anxious to make sure that we get there,” he said.
Feed Our Homeless is running a Christmas party for homeless families and children on Thursday afternoon (21 December) on Dame Street Dublin opposite Trinity College. There will be Christmas dinner, live music, face painting, Santa’s Grotto, presents and treats for everyone who attends along with a few familiar faces.
More information is available on the group’s Facebook page; Feed Our Homeless or by calling Tony Walsh 085 8109105 or Tom Duffy 087 6271309.