At Sacred Heart Primary School in Derry, the corner of a classroom has been transformed into a First Communion boutique.
The dresses are displayed on rails – one for the dresses, the other for suits – with shoes lined up in pairs underneath, and bags, gloves and other accessories arranged neatly on a table nearby.
There is a poster on the wall welcoming students and parents, and the space around it has been decorated with a chair, pillows and even a mirror decorated with flowers.
This is Sacred Heart’s communion clothing pop-up shop, a new initiative to help parents struggling with the cost of living.
“A lot of things are getting very expensive now and people might be saving money to buy food for their children and they don’t have enough to buy clothes or suits for communion and if they did they wouldn’t have any money,” says 10-year-old Erin-Rose Shiels.
The pop-up shop, which can be stocked by donations from parents and is free to use, is unmanned so families can come and get what they need privately while still attempting to give students the full Communion experience. to offer shopping.
Erin-Rose and her classmates on the student council and the school’s ministry team have helped with the pop-up shop and have been instrumental in other initiatives such as a winter coat swap shop and providing students with toast time three mornings a week.
“We propose ideas to help the school and the community,” says Tony Kirby. He and the other members of the student council have already celebrated their first communion and share how their own experiences have encouraged them to help younger students and their families as they prepare this year. “After all, communion is only experienced once,” says Tony.
“I loved it, it was very special,” says Rhainá Deane. My dress was made by my grandma, she’s a seamstress, it had nice little chains and something like that on it.”
“My communion was really important to me, especially going out with my whole family,” says Odhran McCallion. “But some families don’t have the money because dresses and suits are very expensive and they may not be able to afford money for food.”
This is where the pop-up shop comes into play. Holly, the daughter of class assistant Bronagh Oakley, will celebrate her First Holy Communion this year.
“We got the dress and everything sorted and she’s so excited,” says Bronagh. “I didn’t go and buy it right away, it was paid for, but I’m lucky that I have a job to be able to do it, but not everyone can.
“Years ago when I would have been in school everything was kind of hidden, it was kind of a shame, but now because there are so many more people fighting … it’s nothing to be ashamed of.”
Eight-year-old Paul Doherty is also preparing for his first communion. “It’s May 20th. I want to do a reading,” he says. “I’m wearing a suit, it’s gray and pink.”
His mother, Jacqueline Doherty, is also a class assistant and has seen firsthand the impact of the cost of living crisis on local families. She says she always keeps a packet of cookies in her classroom so no child ever goes without them during recess.
Sacred Heart, in the Top of the Hill area of Derry’s Waterside, is one of the larger primary schools in the city with around 460 pupils. Many of them come from socially disadvantaged areas, around 40 percent of the students are entitled to free school meals.
“We’ve seen a huge increase in our children’s needs for social and emotional well-being since Covid, and now it’s the cost of living crisis,” says Assistant Principal Alisha Gilmore.
“It’s kids whose uniforms aren’t clean, their homework isn’t done, no break, no lunch, late, late pick-up, absenteeism,” adds elementary school teacher and ministry coordinator Áine Deane.
This is their first year running the Communion pop-up, spurred on by the success of their winter coat swap shop. “Because it was unmanned, the only way we could measure it was by counting the empty hangers,” Ms Deane says. “Suddenly 37 hangers were gone and then 50.”
Last month, members of four teachers’ unions – including Sacred Heart workers – participated in a half-day strike over pay. As schools face further education budget cuts, Sacred Heart has focused on donations from the local community. They have also worked with Foyle Foodbank, Lidl and The Range.
“I was so surprised that the big companies wanted to take on our little school,” says Ms. Deane. “Charity begins at home. So if we don’t take care of what’s happening on our doorstep, we don’t stand a chance.
“How do you measure success for children’s well-being or emotional health, there’s no data on that, but we can see that it’s like their shoulders are going down… they’re confident that if they go to.” come to school, will have breakfast.”
“You can see it in their little faces, they stand taller, they’re more independent and confident, so you can see it was worth it.”
https://www.irishtimes.com/ireland/social-affairs/2023/03/07/derry-school-pop-up-shop-helps-parents-struggling-with-cost-of-living/ Derry school’s pop-up shop helps parents struggling with the cost of living – The Irish Times