Last year, we posted pretty extensive gift guides for every kind of Irish dancer and Irish dancer gift we could think of: the littlest dancer, the competitive dancer, Irish dance décor, Irish dance apparel, a feis survival basket, Irish dance parental figures, and even stocking stuffers! All those suggestions are still up to peruse (just click on the category that strikes your fancy,) but we thought we’d go a different route this year. While material gifts are always going to be exciting, the events over the past almost two years (crazy!) have really brought to light what matters most: helping others as part of a global community. Inspired by all those hearts and thank yous all over for essential workers, we’re here to let you know about some of our favorite Irish charities to donate to in lieu of a present or two this holiday season.
First up, we have Barretstown! This not-for-profit camp for children with cancer and other serious illnesses is located in County Kildare at the beautiful Barretstown Castle in Ballymore Eustace. It was founded in 1994 by Paul Newman (yes—that Paul Newman) and provides what they call “therapeutic recreation” for the campers aged 7-17 that helps enhance the children’s lives and rebuild self-confidence in the face of the struggles they’re facing. The camp is a member of the Serious Fun Group, a global children’s network dedicated the improving the quality of the lives of children who have been impacted by serious childhood illnesses. Their first camp was right here in Connecticut in 1988, but there are now 30 worldwide—including Barretstown in Ireland! The camp is completely free to campers, which means they need to raise €4.5 million a year to keep it running. Well, along with the 1,200 volunteers or “caras” (it means friend in Irish!) who donate their time to the campers! (And good news: as of this year, the Barretstown program is open to US-based children as well!)
Next, we’d love to turn the spotlight on Cuan Mhuire. The name means “Mary’s Harbor” and it was founded in 1966 by a nun named Sr. Consilio and her order, the Sisters of Mercy, to help people struggling with alcohol, drug, and gambling addictions. Since that time, it’s charitably treated over 100,000 individuals in its locations throughout Ireland, with approximately 40% of patients experiencing homelessness at the time of their admission. Between the harmful stereotypes that still persist about Irish alcohol consumption to this day and the cultural norms that perpetuate addiction problems throughout Ireland, Cuan Mhuire is providing an invaluable public service and has been honored innumerable times over the years. This was the first purpose-built rehabilitation center in all of Ireland and focuses on uncovering underlying issues that led to addiction and treating the whole person, rather than the disease, through a variety of therapeutic techniques. With their primary philosophy being that all people are worthy and that there are no hopeless cases, we think it’s a worthy cause!
Lastly, we’d love to take a moment to talk about the Irish Wildlife Trust! They’ve been around as both a lobbyist in Irish politics and a national conservation-based charitable organization since 1979. The IWT’s goal is multifold: to conserve wildlife and their habitats throughout Ireland, while also encouraging understanding and appreciation of the natural world and educating the populace on both the importance of this and how to pitch in. It would take a whole new blog post to list all the environmental impact groups they’re a part of—from Seas at Risk and the European Environmental Bureau to Bat Conservation Ireland and Badgerwatch Ireland—and they have branches all throughout the country (check out a list of their current campaigns here.) Between their work on national parks and the numerous studies and surveys they perform, IWT is on the front lines of environmental conservation that not only serves Ireland, but every tourist that visits to see the island’s natural splendor.
But these are only a few of Ireland’s many laudable charitable causes! Check in next week for a few more options, (or check out this (not comprehensive, but extensive) list--List of Charitable Organizations in Ireland—in the meantime.)
This post is part of a series. Read our last Modern Ireland post, all about Trinity College Dublin, here. Check out the blog every Monday and Thursday for more posts about Irish history, dance culture, community news, and spotlights on our dancers, staff, and families—among other fun projects! And don’t forget to dance along with us on both Facebook and Instagram.
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