The SVP has stepped up its support for people left in dire need by the Covid-19 crisis. Our 10,000 national volunteers who befriend lonely isolated people in their homes, have had to adapt to the increasingly necessary restrictions on movement and contact. Usually well known for offering friendship through face-to-face visits, contact has had to be restricted and a 'knock and drop' service is being introduced instead.
Jon Cornwall, SVP Head of Membership explains: “in times like these, we are seeing isolation and loneliness on the rise, across the demographic of young, old, families, and single people alike.
“While our volunteers can’t respond in their usual way of a chat over a cup of tea, we have set up a temporary volunteer service, where Christians feeling called to help can be recommended by their local SVP group to carry out a shop and drop service of dropping off local groceries and essentials to vulnerable people.
This is also an opportunity for a short catch up, just to check that the person is doing ok. One member for example, had a chat with a vulnerable beneficiary while helping to clean his downstairs windows. They respected social distancing and were able to safely speak with one another.
“In this way, we are adapting our services, recruiting more volunteers and offering help where it is needed most.”
With food poverty rising steeply, the SVP’s 'knock and drop' service forms just one way that we are helping to feed the hungry. Our community support projects around the country are also providing food to people who are most in need.
Tower House in Brighton is one of the SVP's centres and is well known for providing lunch and activities for isolated older people along with a weekly Memory Café for people with dementia and those who care for them. Two course lunches are provided in partnership with food waste charity, FareShare and activities include art, chair exercise, brain gym, music therapy and counselling sessions.
Lindsay MacRae helps run the centre and says: “With Covid-19, the possibility of hosting our usual Tuesday lunches at Tower House is no longer possible. However, we know that there were many older, isolated people stuck at home, not being able to see anyone, who would be really missing a hot freshly cooked meal and company. We don’t want them to miss out, so we are putting together food parcels for those guests who are most isolated. We have a great team of volunteers delivering them to people’s homes.”
Volunteers with health issues or who are self-isolating have also been keeping in regular contact with guests to check up on them over the telephone. Lindsay says “Mainly our volunteers call guests to have a natter and catch up. Providing conversation is just as nourishing as providing food.” She says that demand is increasing week on week.
“Some guests have described our service as a 'life-line' and sadly this is all too true as many of our guests have no relatives or anyone close to help them out. Those in sheltered housing, without an on-site manager are particularly vulnerable as all communal spaces have been closed. The majority of our guests have no internet access to engage with the wider world. Imagine getting through lockdown without Netflix or a smart-phone”
However, Lindsay insists: “Although we are far apart we hope to remain as close as ever during the crisis but offering food and friendship”.
St Vincent's Support Centre in Leeds is another CSP run by the SVP also refusing to give in to the pandemic. Debt advice and counselling are being provided over the phone, ensuring that people in need can still access these services. Each and every day the Centre hands out breakfast parcels at 10am. This is fresh food that has been donated the previous day by local supermarkets, schools and even hotels. Where possible, the parcels generally contain bread, milk and fruit and are supplied to an average of 135 people a day.
At lunchtime St Vincent’s has been offering clients a fresh hot takeaway meal. These are prepared every day by Dermot the Community Café Manager and, again, is using food that has been donated. In a single day up to 160 free hot meals are provided.
Sheena Eastwood, St Vincent’s Centre manager explains that many of the people being supported are families including a family with seven children that come daily. Sheena says: “We are very much part of the East Leeds community and want to ensure that everyone in the area has access to enough fresh food. The support that we are receiving from schools, supermarkets and other organisations is absolutely breath-taking and we are humbled by the kindness of others”
If you are in a position to give please consider donating to the SVP's Covid-19 Emergency Fund so we can continue to be there for isolated and vulnerable people who need us most at this time.