We spoke to Victoria Imrie-Bell, Norah’s granddaughter who along with her family 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 special 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. This year the impact of COVID-19 means so many more children are going to go without.
How will COVID-19 impact Norah’s North Pole?
For a start, we have so many more children on the list this year. Many parents have lost jobs or had their hours reduced which has had a major impact on the family’s income. Many children have been turning up to school without having breakfast and parents are forced to choose between things they once considered essentials. Families on the Norah’s North Pole list will be prioritising heating and basic food, a traditional Christmas dinner will not be an option and there is certainly no money for Christmas presents for the children. We have a number of families who donated to Norah’s North Pole last year but this year they find themselves needing the support of Norah’s North Pole.
We have created an Amazon list this year as less people can get to donation points, we have a number of schools and businesses helping us as and acting as donation points post lockdown. Many people are ordering online from shops like Wilko or The Works to make their money go further and having the donations delivered directly to Norah’s North Pole HQ which is great. Any way people choose to get donations to us we are so thankful.
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. This year we have brothers who were taken into care during the lockdown and despite being inseparable at home are now living separately, they are unable to see each other until the lockdown is lifted and they are really struggling with being apart. One of our little boys Danny is 9 but he is only the height of a 5-year-old due to neglect in his early life, he doesn’t believe in Santa and has no reason to as he has never received a present on Christmas morning. There are so many sad stories and we feel incredibly lucky to be able to sprinkle a little kindness on their Christmas.
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.