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By Laura Kingston

We spoke to Victoria Imrie-Bell, one of the family members who set up Norah’s North Pole. 

Can you tell us the background of how Norah’s North Pole came about?

Norah’s North Pole is not a charity we are just a family who saw a need within our local community. Norah is our grandma and we set Norah’s North Pole up in her memory, her motto was “It’s nice to be nice” and she lived her life by this. As children she would take all of the grandchildren shopping, we were given £5 each and we bought presents for a child of our age who wouldn’t get anything for Christmas. She taught us the gift of giving and made us aware that you should always do what you can for those in a less fortunate position than yourself. Our aunty who is a social worker would take our gift boxes and distribute them on Christmas Day. When Norah died our family wanted to do something in her memory and it seemed only fitting we continued her Christmas giving. She was an amazing inspiration to us all and we love that we come together as a family each year to give to Children who would otherwise think Santa had forgotten about them. 

 

How are the children identified?

Within our family, we have social workers, teachers, headteachers and governors who between them have a network who teach and care for the most deprived and vulnerable children in our community. We work with them to identify children who would otherwise not receive Christmas presents. Our family and friends donate toys and gifts and we package them up into Santa Sacks to give to the Children. We give the Santa sacks to their parents just before Christmas and they can give the presents as if they are from Santa Clause. The children on our Norah’s North Pole list are living in such sad circumstances. We have a little girl who would love a doll of her own as she borrows one from school but needs to give it back each morning, a little boy who refuses to write a list because he knows he will be removed from his home and doesn’t think Santa will know where to find him and a little boy who has asked for white paper and school shoes. We have children who have suffered abuse, have had multiple homes and have been split from their brothers and sisters. Their stories are heartbreaking and to be able to give a little something to them on Christmas morning is the least we can do. 

 

What is the best thing to donate?

Each year our list of Norah’s North Pole children has grown and so have the donations. We have children from 0 – 17 on our lists  (and often parents too) so we can find a perfect home for any gift donated. All we ask is that the gift is new as every child deserves something brand new for Christmas. If anyone still wanted to donate we are in need of soft toys, baby blankets, board games and warm scarves. 

 

Has this been your most successful year so far? Do you think social media has helped that?

By far 2019 has been our best year, one of our Facebook posts went viral and we woke up to hundreds of messages from people in our community who wanted to help, we have spoken to over 500 complete strangers who want to be involved in making Christmas more special for the Norah’s North Pole children. People have been amazing and the donations have been overwhelming. Social media has allowed us to reach people who want to donate but don’t know how. As well as the hundreds of gifts we have received, we have had Amazon deliveries from people in Canada, a princess company recording personalised messages and lots of handmade Christmas treats made for the children.

One salon has opened up their doors to allow some of our Norah’s North Pole children to go for a pre-Christmas pamper session where they will have their hair washed and blowdried, their nails painted and will go home with a selection of goodies from the salon. The generosity of people is truly incredible it really is Christmas kindness at its best. 

How can you help?

We are excited to put on our Santa hats and Christmas jumpers to start packing the Santa sacks. It is a full family affair and ran like a military operation, we have wrapping stations, clipboards and a Head Elf who takes her responsibilities very seriously.

We have two drop-off points that will still be operating next week:

 
Norah’s North Pole 
St Peter’s Gate
University of Sunderland
Charles Street
Sunderland
SR6 0AN
 
SS Peter and Paul RC Primary School
Olive Street
South Shields
Tyne and Wear
NE33 4RD
https://www.facebook.com/norahsnorthpole/?epa=SEARCH_BOX

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