Donate price of sandwich and boost Instagrammer Laura-Ann Barr's appeal
Belfast blogger Laura-Ann Barr is using her social media influence to raise awareness of homelessness through a special Christmas campaign. Judith Cole hears more
Instagram sensation Laura-Ann Barr is this month encouraging her social media followers to donate the cost of a Christmas sandwich to help homelessness charity Simon Community NI.
The Belfast blogger was so moved by the plight of those without a home that she decided to raise awareness and also help out by volunteering at a number of the charity's projects.
Shock figures reveal that every day in Northern Ireland another 50 people become homeless, with more than 13,000 children living in households accepted as homeless.
In the 18 months to February 2019, 205 people experiencing homelessness in Northern Ireland had their applications for social housing closed because of death. Now more important than ever, Simon Community is working to save the lives of society's most vulnerable.
And this Christmas, the charity will provide 382 warm beds each night for adults, young people and families with no place to call home.
Laura-Ann (32), who runs her lifestyle blog, prettymuchme.co.uk, has amassed almost 85,000 followers on Instagram by sharing colourful snaps from her life including husband Chris and their children Bertie (4) and George (2).
Last December, Barr took to her @all.thats.pretty Instagram account for 12 days of sandwich fun, reviewing the Christmas sandwiches of local cafes and food chains and even garnering the support of Eamonn Holmes.
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This year, she is back by popular demand and will be dishing out sandwich reviews on behalf of Simon Community.
She is encouraging her followers to donate the cost of their lunchtime sandwiches to help the charity continue to provide shelter and support across Northern Ireland. And not only that, but Laura-Ann will also be volunteering with Simon Community and meeting clients to gain an understanding of the realities of having no home - especially at Christmas. My mission is to eat a Christmas sandwich from a different Northern Ireland shop or cafe every day for 24 days, whilst rating and reviewing each one," Laura-Ann says.
"I did it for 12 days last year and Eamonn Holmes got involved after I bumped into him whilst trying a Christmas sandwich in our local cafe in east Belfast. We had a great discussion on what constitutes the perfect festive sandwich and I ended up on his TalkRadio show talking about my ratings.
"This year I have had thousands of people asking me to do it again and thought I'd use it to help a charity.
"I will be asking for sponsorship on a Just Giving page - just asking people to donate the cost of their Christmas sandwich to Simon Community to help those in need this Christmas."
Laura-Ann also has a number of volunteering projects lined up for this month.
"Danny Miller is inviting 80 homeless people who are looked after by Simon Community to his restaurant, Stock Kitchen and Bar at St George's Market, and providing Christmas dinners for each of them," she explains. "I'll be serving them all, as well as doing the dreaded dish washing.
"I'll be volunteering at Simon Community's family projects helping kids with school homeworks every Wednesday afternoon.
"I also plan to speak at one of the charity's young people's projects and hosting an arts and crafts workshop, among other things. My children are getting involved too and it's a great opportunity to teach them to think of others at Christmas.
"It is very exciting and I hope that my efforts will raise thousands for the charity."
Jim Dennison, chief executive at Simon Community NI, says the charity is thrilled to have Laura-Ann's backing.
"We are delighted to have Laura-Ann on board with such a fun initiative that will deliver our mission to people who may be unfamiliar with our charity," he says. "We are further touched by her commitment to getting her hands dirty through volunteering to fully understand homelessness and our clients.
"I know how I feel about turkey come Boxing Day and applaud Laura-Ann as she takes up the challenge. I urge people to get behind the project and help Laura-Ann smash her fundraising target by sacrificing the cost of a lunchtime sandwich."
Donate the cost of your lunchtime sandwich via Laura-Ann's Just Giving page at www.justgiving.com/fundraising/allthatspretty