In response to the Coronavirus pandemic… care for each other. There are so many ways in which we are to do this: being attentive to the needs of our neighbour, especially the elderly and vulnerable; contributing to our local food banks; volunteering for charitable initiatives and organisations; simply keeping in touch by all the means open to us.
Cardinal Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster
Traditional support in challenging new times
Ever since 1833, the St Vincent de Paul Society has dedicated itself to tackling poverty, disadvantage and social isolation by providing direct practical assistance to anyone in need.
Today, with fresh challenges facing us amid the Coronavirus outbreak, we are gratified to have received so many enquiries from people who are offering their time and service to their parishes and wider communities. We are pleased to assist you in doing this.
What the SVP can provide
- Ongoing support for you, your fellow volunteers and those you are able to reach out to
- Some easy-to-implement strategies which will be meaningful for those who are facing various forms of poverty at this time
- A platform to share your experiences, coordinate your efforts and learn from one another
- A source of inspiration, comfort and motivation for your day
- Some ideas on how you might inspire others to join you in service
- Crucial guidance on matters of policy, legislation and safeguarding to ensure that both you and those you support might be protected
- Prayers for you and your Conference; download the latest Coronavirus prayer
Who to talk to
With that in mind here are three people who you may wish to reach out to:
- If you are an individual wishing to join a group please contact Mark Warwick, Membership Development Manager. He and his team of regional development workers would be delighted to work with you and connect you with our local co-ordinators. When you contact Mark please provide him with your name, your postcode and details of the kind of service you would be interested in offering. Contact him on MarkW@svp.org.uk or 07774 255251.
- If you are in contact on behalf of a group please contact Jon Cornwall, Head of Membership. He would be particularly happy to support you in the formation of a new group of volunteers working in your local community. Contact him on JonC@svp.org.uk or 07703 321689.
- For any support you might need in completing paperwork please contact Wendy Gibbs, Membership Administration Assistant. She will be assisting Mark with this. Contact her on WendyG@svp.org.uk.
Our founder, Blessed Frédéric Ozanam, said: “No act of charity is foreign to the Society.” Please let us work with you to do anything and everything we can to seek, find and help those in need.
Frequently asked questions
During unprecedented times, with fresh challenges and new responsibilities facing us as a Society amid the Coronavirus outbreak, we are gratified and inspired by the many enquiries we are receiving from people who are offering their time and service to their parishes and wider communities, and in some cases to establish new SVP groups, known as ‘Conferences’.
Download our frequently asked questions.
Supporting all the need around you as an unsupported individual will be challenging. There are not enough hours in the day to be all things to all people. So, a Conference is vital to multiply the number of helping hands or listening ears. A supportive and encouraging Conference will accept every Member-gift offered, and will not just care for others but also for one another. While you are adapting the way that you are working, we ask you to please offer any and all the support you can to one another while we adjust temporarily.
Before Covid-19 we were already responding to a variety of different needs within the Society; those on the outskirts have been pushed even further back, those who were vulnerable before are even more so today. What follows is by no means an exhaustive list of dimensions to consider but might be worth considering.
Uncertainly around jobs, global finance etc are a cause of great concern. Conferences have mechanisms in place to sometimes offer financial support in practical ways to help people who find themselves in need and lacking the necessary funds. We are also regularly called upon to provide advocacy support to individuals while we befriend them; we offer to make calls on their behalf, research their options and seek to put them in touch with the best possible advice.
Material and food poverty
We are regularly asked for assistance with providing some of the basics, whether it be the urgency of food poverty or requests for basic furniture or occasionally maintenance. During these coming weeks and months we will discover quickly what we need but do not have access to, this may not just be toilet rolls but also access to a thermometer, sanitary products, cough sweets and even colouring books, which may all provide a great deal of comfort and relief.
The SVP have offered a service for a number of years caring for those who suffer from homelessness, by offering Vinnie Packs, small parcels containing a warm hat, gloves, socks, toothpaste and a few other essentials. We do not wish to cease our efforts, if this is something which you think would be useful in your area then please do contact us on some of the numbers provided.
This is the area where the greatest amount of our time is addressed. Over half a million hours per year have been committed to making people feel less alone through our befriending service. We are adapting to continue responding and many of our existing beneficiaries will be receiving regular phone calls, postcards and meaningful gifts to let them know that they are cared for and important.
The poverty of hope
This has always been a threat but perhaps a never more pressing one than now. We know how we feel after watching the news for more than an hour. As well as responding to all of the challenges detailed, Vincentians do so with hope, joy and care and in a way which promotes dignity. We will provide moments of calm and compassion, moments of spirituality and service. But we cannot give what we do not receive so it is imperative that our members are taking time to reflect, pray and compose themselves, and behind every good member there is a spiritual advisor and a listening ear. We will be working hard over the coming weeks to ensure that a corner of the SVP website can be an island of tranquillity for you and please if you have words of wisdom, reflection and solace do share them with each other and the SVP staff.
If you are not over 70 or considered to be in an at-risk group:
If you are willing to help with shopping or picking up prescriptions please let us know (we have various systems in place to ensure you are reimbursed)
- Leaflet the local area to find what support people may be in need of. You will need to provide a contact number so please work with us to do this safely
- Support parents who are now having to arrange emergency childcare,perhaps by providing craft materials, colouring books etc.(This would require a significant conversation with us about safeguarding and DBS)
- Perhaps you are able to support neighbouring Conferences technologically, now that meetings are having to find alternative means of taking place. If you know how to set up Skype, Zoom, conference calls etc, then please help within your Districts
- Get in touch with local food banks to see what support you might be able to offer them, and consider distributing food parcels
- Writing letters or making cards with children to send to those in isolation – posting a card or letter to an isolated person could be a great source of hope for them
If you are in self-isolation or physical distancing yourself from other people:
Befriending phone calls – a phone call to an isolated elderly person can make all the difference to their mood (even if you are self-isolating or vulnerable you can still be involved in this)
- Find out, perhaps from a university chaplain, if there are any isolated international students so that they can receive a regular phone call, and if required organise someone to shop for them
- Work with your Conference to submit requests for money and aid
- Work with a Conference to arrange for essential deliveries to people who may be in need
- Assisting families who are in need – perhaps offering suggestions of activities or phoning parents for a chat or getting a mystery hamper of craft materials delivered
- Be an active, helpful and supportive voice on social media – you can point people in the direction of help who may not know who they can turn to and fact check false and unhelpful news
- Find springs of renewal, ensure that your fellow helpers know that they are being prayed for, supported, cared for and “gee’d up”
We are seeing a massive boost in the number of people asking to help out. Please work with us to make them welcome and able to share. Please welcome more members, (through Auxiliary Membership in the first instance), volunteers and helpers. Be aware that the avenue of lectern appeals is now shut off to us however.
- Share information on what you are doing on your local Facebook groups. It might help you find those in need as well as more volunteers to help. Offer specific ways they can help –telephone befriending, collecting shopping, finding resources for children off school, etc
- Contact Catholic and other churches in your area to make them aware of your efforts. Perhaps your parish secretary is able to put out an email
- Reach out to other community initiatives to join forces – many county councils have an official response and youcan be part of this
- Reach out to other charities you may need - form links with foodbanks,
- You can setup a Conference Facebook page for your group very quickly and easily –you can use this to share resources that might help, such as local food delivery services or resources to keep children occupied while off school