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Black Santa's Diary: 'Despite my croaky voice, the donations continue to pour in'

Rev Stephen Forde
Rev Stephen Forde

By Stephen Forde, Dean of Belfast

There is a rhythm to each Black Santa day. With the help of the cathedral sextons, Black Santa set ups his stall as dawn breaks over Belfast.

There is a table to put in place, the wooden platform to keep your feet from freezing, the Black Santa sandwich board with new graphics, which show that 100% of donations to Black Santa go to support local charities (with 10% in support of the amazing worldwide work of Christian Aid).

Next, someone offers a warming coffee, or even a cheering cup of hot chocolate. Then - and only then - is Black Santa set up and ready for the day which lies ahead. But other people have their own rhythms. Some are focused on getting to work, while others have their Christmas shopping to start.

There are the men who have finished salting the pavements and those who make sure the streets of Belfast are swept and ready for another day.

The Ulsterbus coaches travel from provincial towns to Belfast, packed on the way into the city, quiet on their return journey.

And, as the sun rises and warms the morning air, so people are more inclined to reach into their pockets and purses and make their donations to support the Black Santa Appeal.

The contactless donations are definitely proving a hit, now that Black Santa and his team of helpers have cracked the technology.

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Some bring bags of pennies and 20p pieces. Some visit the bank machine and give crisp new notes. The clever ones ask for a Gift Aid envelope to ensure that the Chancellor of the Exchequer adds his donation to the Black Santa Appeal.

But all, out of a rhythm of Christmas generosity, want to make their gift to the Black Santa with a croaky voice, whose passion is to see people across NI supported and helped to support and help themselves.

The Very Rev Stephen Forde is Dean of Belfast

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