The Dean of Belfast, the Very Rev Stephen Forde, has thanked everyone who contributed to a special Black Santa Appeal for Ukraine, which has raised more than £56,000 to date.
Dean Forde was speaking on the sixth and final sit-out on the steps of Belfast Cathedral, which began on Wednesday March 9 and continued each Wednesday afternoon through the Lent period, finishing on April 13.
Black Santa has been a familiar sight in Donegall Street every December since the tradition began in 1976, but in March this year, Dean Forde opted to bring out the familiar collecting barrel in response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine. This is not the first time Black Santa has responded to humanitarian crises in the world. In 1974, Dean Sammy Crooks collected funds following major flooding in Bangladesh, and Dean Houston McKelvey staged a special sit-out in the wake of the Boxing Day tsunami of 2004.
Dean Forde said: “A massive thank you to everyone who has contributed to the current total of £56,784 raised for the Black Santa Lent Appeal for Ukraine.
“Over the past six weeks of Lent, unimaginable horrors have been endured by the citizens of Ukraine. These traumas will take decades, if not generations to heal. At the same time, the equivalent of more than half the population of this island have fled as refugees – women and children who have left behind their husbands, sons and fathers to fight a brutal invading army. Some children have stopped speaking. Others draw pictures of planes bombing their towns.”
The Dean continued: “Through the generosity of so many from Belfast and beyond, humanitarian support is being provided to people whose lives have been torn apart by a needless war. This giving has provided the resources for Habitat for Humanity and Christian Aid Ireland to respond to immediate need, and establish longer term support.
“Food, battery packs for mobile phones, ruck sacks, heaters and tents have been provided at border crossings and railway stations. Medicines and emergency food is making its way to Ukraine. Accommodation is being fitted out for thousands of women and children in the countries neighbouring Ukraine.
“All this has been made possible through the generosity of those who have given.”
Dean Forde presented the proceeds of his Black Santa Appeal to date to Jenny Williams, Chief Executive of Habitat for Humanity Ireland, and Rosamond Bennett, Chief Executive of Christian Aid Ireland, at his final Lent Sit-out on Wednesday April 13.
The Appeal will remain open on the dedicated Black Santa website for anyone wishing to make a donation.