Staying Connected at Christmas BBC Northern Ireland launch Christmas Appeal - Staying Connected Loneliness is something that many people will have experienced at some point in their lives. It can be difficult to talk about – and sometimes hard to overcome. The Appeal aims to raise awareness of the effects of loneliness and provide information, support and advice on how everybody can do something - big or small - to help someone in need. In a Christmas like no other in recent memory, BBC Northern Ireland is encouraging everyone to find different ways of saying hello and staying in touch with neighbours, friends or their wider family circle. And whilst Covid-19 restrictions mean that we have to keep our distance, it remains more important than ever to stay connected – whether by phone, email, letter, social media or the BBC itself! The appeal, which will run from Monday 7 December – Friday 11 December, is a joint initiative with a group of local charities including: Volunteer Now, Age NI, Parenting NI, Marie Curie, Barnardo’s NI, British Red Cross, Campaign To End Loneliness, Carers NI, Mencap NI and the Royal College of General Practitioners NI. Linda Robinson, Chief Executive, Age NI said: ‘We are thrilled to be working in partnership with BBC Northern Ireland and the other charities on the Christmas Appeal ‘Staying Connected at Christmas – overcoming loneliness, together’ As a charity supporting older people who find themselves isolated or alone, we know how important and powerful staying connected can be. I hope that this project inspires family, friends and neighbours to connect with others who may be lonely in their communities.’ Fronting the campaign this year is BBC News NI’s Tara Mills. She says: “I think this year has brought loneliness and isolation into very sharp focus. The good thing is that many of us have got to know our neighbours better, but it has also shown that loneliness affects people of all ages. “In our programmes I talk to people every day who are helping their family and friends, their neighbours and colleagues. We can provide company on the radio in particular, but as a community we have to do more and keep up the new social contacts we all built in the lockdown. Is there anyone you could call or write a letter to? Sometimes the simplest things have the greatest impact. “One of the most touching stories I heard was a young woman who befriended her 94-year-old neighbour during lockdown. They’ve now become great friends and have both gained enormously from the new relationship." Mark Adair, Head of Corporate and Community Affairs, BBC NI says: “Loneliness is an important issue and it’s something that many people have struggled with in this most difficult of years. Our Appeal is a joint initiative with local charities that have been doing innovative work in this area and we hope that it will facilitate a big conversation about loneliness and how it can be overcome. There are no easy solutions, but help is available and all of us can do something to stay connected with neighbours, friends, family. “Just finding time to say ‘Hello’ could make a huge difference this Christmas. And whilst Covid-19 may require us to keep our distance, it doesn’t mean that we can’t reach out to others in a ‘virtual embrace’.” There’ll be stories, features and reports about loneliness across the BBC’s airwaves. Now, more than ever, it is important for all of us to stay connected this Christmas. For more information about the Appeal’s charity partners and how to get involved visit: bbc.co.uk/niappeals. Get involved with #stayingconnected If you or an older person you know needs help and support call our advice line on FREEPHONE 0808 808 7575.