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Anguished mother: 'Sometimes you just have to make a sacrifice'

Christmas is supposed to be a time of joy and celebration, but for those who are struggling in these tough economic times the holidays can be distress

For one mother-of-five Christmas at her house is just like every other day of the year.She is not able to give her children any toys or presents and says the most they usually get is dinner at a family member's home.Things are particularly tough for her since her hours at one of the Island's hotels were scaled back in the off-season.She made about $500 a week during the busy season, but now has to make do with $110. She is hoping her hours improve in the New Year and expects to begin working three days a week in the near future.Government statistics stated there were 1,700 people looking for work in 2009.Bermuda's first comprehensive labour force survey showed the Island had a 4.5 percent unemployment rate. The statistic came from a survey of more than 1,400 households between May and July last year.The figures painted a “sobering picture of the state of our economy in 2009”, Finance Minister Paula Cox said at that time.The Royal Gazette was unable to get up-to-date figures from the Department of Labour and Training. That office would also not comment on whether the numbers had risen, decreased or remained the same since last year.For those struggling to make ends meet the holiday season can be a particularly challenging time of year.The mother-of-five told this paper: “I just get by. It is hard. It's really hard but sometimes you just have to make a sacrifice.“I sacrifice things like the children can't have lunch at school, and instead of buying chicken we get corned beef. It's tough and stressful.”The woman, who asked not to be named, said her children are between six and 17 years old.She doesn't believe they have been affected by the shortage of cash, claiming they are “still doing good”.Still, she admitted her eldest child sometimes complains that there is no food in the house.“Christmas is lacking in my house. I never had Christmas so I do not know nothing about Christmas. Christmas is just another day to me.“I have a Christmas tree in my house now, but it is just a tree. It's got lights up and stuff, but it is just a tree to me.“My children never had a good Christmas anyway because I do not know what it is like. We go to family's houses and stuff for a Christmas meal, but that's it.”The mother admitted she was happy to have the support of The Coalition for the Protection of Children.The child advocacy group donated toys for each of her children and a food hamper that included a turkey.The charity's chairwoman Sheelagh Cooper said: “We have been helping this family for a couple of years, but their needs are greater now than they were in the past so we have stepped up our efforts.”In addition to serving almost 250 families roughly 1,000 people the charity also helps around 500 people that stop in monthly when they are experiencing particular difficulty.Mrs Cooper said: “There is a significant portion of families that live at or below the poverty line. Some have part-time jobs, some have no job and some have jobs that make so little money that at the end of the week they only make $300 or $400 because of deductions.”She said the charity was able to help many families in need this year thanks to an outpouring of donations from the community, particularly realtors Coldwell Banker, which gave nearly 2,000 gifts.The struggling mother-of-five said she is hopeful the donations will make Christmas brighter for her children.“I would like them to have what everyone else has.“I do not know what it is like to have Christmas. I do not know what it is like on Christmas morning with everyone sitting under the tree having a gift.“In a way I missed out because I have kids now and I do not know how to show them what [the holiday] is like.”Anyone interested in helping this mother or others like her this holiday season should send an e-mail: nadia[AT]royalgazette.bm.