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Mary Gamble

Director of Fundraising and Retail, Barnardos Ireland

The charity sector has been struggling through the COVID-19 crisis. If its vital work is to continue, it urgently needs the support of companies and the general public.

The COVID-19 crisis has rocked the charity sector, says Mary Gamble, Director of Fundraising and Retail at children’s charity, Barnardos Ireland.

During lockdown, the way that charities deliver their services has had to change radically.

“It’s been the biggest shock to the system we’ve ever had,” says Mary. “Our organisation has had to rapidly adapt to an entirely new way of working, in order to keep serving the children and families that rely on us. Not being there for them just isn’t an option.”

The problem is that the expert-led work of many charities is done face-to-face. Barnardos is no exception.

So how do you help children and families when social distancing rules mean you can’t share the same physical space? Well, instead of providing its normal breakfast clubs service, Barnardos has been dropping food parcels door-to-door.

Unprecedented demand for charitable services

“We’re feeding whole families now, not just children,” she explains. “It’s also a way for us to get eyes on a child – and a sense of what’s going on behind closed doors – how we can best support families when staff are making deliveries.”

Plus, instead of children eating food in the charity’s centres, cooks have been sending recipe video messages out to their parents and guardians. Meanwhile, emotional support work and counselling is done via video call.

There’s now a new awareness of how fundamentally important the charity sector is to vulnerable families in disadvantaged communities across the country.

Charities are always reliant on the support and goodwill of companies and the general public. But during the COVID-19 pandemic, this help is needed more than ever.

“Charities like ours are finding that we can’t carry out our usual fundraising activities,” explains Mary. “In fact, we’re incurring more costs due to COVID-19, such as making the food parcel deliveries.”

“There’s more financial pressure on us than normal, because high street charity shops have had to close and fundraising events have had to stop.” Unfortunately, this comes at a time where there is an unprecedented surge in demand for charitable services.

Helping charities support those in need

Thankfully the corporate and business sector have been responding to the sector’s cries for help.

“They’ve been behind us all the way, responding to our emergency appeals and giving us their support with donations of food and nappies,” says Mary.

“That’s been so heart-warming. It’s lifted us up, and it’s lifted up the children who rely on us.”

If there’s one silver lining to this extremely dark cloud, it’s that there’s now a new awareness of how fundamentally important the charity sector is to vulnerable families in disadvantaged communities across the country.

Here is Mary’s message to companies and the general public: keep your support coming. “Financial help will always be gratefully received,” she says. “We can make sure that it goes immediately to the frontline and the people who need it the most. Things are tough for a lot of children and families right now, but we think that this is only the start of the struggle. Here at Barnardos, we need to be in a position to continue supporting those in need in the weeks and months to come.”

To find out more about Barnardos’ services in your area, visit

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