During this Jubilee Year of Mercy, Pope Francis is calling upon Catholics to reach out to those on the margins of Society – something the SVP in England & Wales has been doing since 1844.
The core work of the Society’s members is visiting and befriending the lonely. As families become more fragmented people are becoming increasingly isolated. The Society’s chief executive , Elizabeth Palmer, says: “Through befriending, members gain the trust of those they visit. It is not uncommon for a chat over a cup of tea to lead to a disclosure of a real need which previously may not have been mentioned. Members gain a unique insight into the lives of many people in different situations of hardship. Our members can act like family where this kind of support is missing in someone’s life.”
One example of this is Josephine, as asylum seeker who moved to Cardiff with her two year old child. On a bitterly cold November day, SVP members went to visit Josephine. They found her living in dilapidated housing with no heating and no means of cooking apart from a microwave donated by friends. There was one egg in the fridge for the baby and nothing else. Josephine had been unable to get all the benefits to which she was entitled, and the two of them were living on a single person’s income support of £70 a week to cover everything. SVP members provided immediate relief on the day with £100 for food and essentials including basic cooking utensils. They befriended Josephine and over the weeks provided her with furniture and other necessities including a washing machine and clothes for her and her child. Members spent hours making phone calls on her behalf to the tax credit and child benefit offices until she was awarded the correct amount.