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This day, as Vincentians, we pray for peace, for healing and for joy. May love pierce the cold hearted, faith uphold the weak, mercy embrace the unjust and forgiveness discover the repentant. Father, bring us all together, bestowing upon us a holy hope and granting us the perseverance to build Your kingdom here on Earth. Amen
Collaborating With Schools
In Birmingham Central Council we were very blessed to receive an anonymous donation of £2,500 for use in support of those in need during this COVID-19 crisis. We initially sat down and allowed conferences to put forward all their different ideas for how we could best use the money; however, one conference said they had received a request from a nearby school who had a family in need of food and a tablet for their children to work on. This got us thinking and we decided to contact the Birmingham Diocesan Education Service to ask if it might be possible for them to contact all Catholic schools within Birmingham Diocese offering our services. This was carried out most successfully and to date we have received 14 requests. We are now supporting around 40 families, many from areas where we do not have a conference. In those cases SVP members from conferences in the area have kindly assisted.
At St Ann’s SVP Conference, Banstead, our challenge for 2020 is helping the homeless. Although we have prepared our own homeless emergency kits, delivering them to people sleeping rough and to organisations working with the homeless, we have decided to do more. We got in touch with the Merton Homeless Night Shelter, a partner of YMCA Wimbledon, and each morning have been supporting the Salvation Army in getting a good breakfast to those who are going back out onto the streets. This experience was very rewarding for our members.
When the lockdown was implemented the above scheme was discontinued as the Government announced the provision of accommodation for the homeless. St Ann’s members have continued to support the Merton Homeless Night Shelter project by providing, on a rota basis, a parcel of snacks and essentials for one of the night shelter’s guests who is currently in temporary accommodation. Most of the guests in the group now have been rehoused. There is one person who is still in hotel accommodation.
We are unclear how long this situation will continue. While we would hope that the homeless crisis will be addressed permanently, it is unlikely that this will be the case in the short term. We will continue to support while our help is required.
Lockdown in Our Approved Premises
Over the past few months staff in both Ozanam and St Christopher’s House have worked extremely hard, working longer hours to keep both hostels up and running. Due to having a reduced number of staff at work, staffing regimes have changed and new procedures and practices put in place to keep both residents and staff safe.
Residents celebrated VE day and a member of staff from Ozanam House, Alison, baked a special cake for the occasion. A competition has also been held amongst the residents for the best NHS support poster, hopefully the winner will be announced in the coming months. Resource packs with activities and quizzes have been shared with the residents, which includes mental health awareness and support. Please join all the SVP in praying for the staff and residents of Ozanam and St Christopher’s House. Stay strong all, there is light at the end of the tunnel.
Support for Our Prisons
For a while now a small group of members from Wrexham, Llay, Mold and Chester SVP conferences have been visiting HMP Berwyn. We had been enjoying getting to know some of the men within the prison; however, with COVID-19 visits became an impossibility. We still wanted to let the prisoners know we were praying and thinking of them but had no way of doing so. With this in mind we decided to record two videos, which you can see here and here, containing personal messages, readings and some songs. The hope is that this will provide a little support until we can go back to visiting, especially as some of them are being locked up for up to 23 hours a day. We ask that if you can, please join us in praying for all those in prison during this crisis. Thank you.
A Most Interesting Story
Anne Teoh was one of the many recipients of food parcels from the SVP at St Joan of Arc Parish in Highbury, London. As she was receiving the first, she managed, at a distance, to encounter the young man who delivered them. This encounter led her to remember and recite a most interesting story, but we’ll let you read it for yourself. Read on here.
If you would prefer to hear from Anne herself, there is an interview with her below.
At Holy Innocents SVP conference in Orpington they have come together with all the churches around them to provide fresh food and supplies that the Trussell Trust and Bromley Council led foodbank are unable to provide. Freezers and fridges have been set up at the Hope Church in Bromley Common and in Orpington, to create distribution facilities for these much needed supplies. All has been a huge collaboration between council led services and local action groups. The Churches together in Orpington were all contacted and the SVP at Holy Innocents rallied around phoning voluntary drivers and co-ordinating the distribution to addresses in the area. This was really a great demonstration of community co-operation.
Boredom Buster Packs
St Margaret Mary’s Conference in Southampton felt that, despite being unable to visit, they needed to ensure all their beneficiaries needs were met and so set up regular telephone communication with them. However, next they thought about their local area; there are already a number of organisations supporting those in need, such as foodbanks, so after some thought they decided to contact schools. The schools quickly got back with referrals and details of families that might need assistance. They started by giving out food vouchers, as families are still capable of shopping. This meant the family could still choose their own food and preserved as much of their dignity as possible. As time progressed they also decided to put together ‘Boredom Buster Packs” containing colouring books, puzzles, stationary, little toys and magazines for children in the families. Thanks to a very supportive parish they have managed to raise over £1600 and can continue to provide help to families in need.
At the SVP conference in Holy Rood, Barnsley we wanted to reach out to the most vulnerable affected by the Covid 19 crisis.
Many other organisations were commendably getting food parcels for the elderly (house bound). On investigation it appeared that the section of society greatly affected financially were families who were on zero hours contracts and recently unemployed (waiting for Universal Credit payments).
This was confirmed with our local Catholic Primary school head.
So we have used resources to make food vouchers available to these families. The school have reported the recipients breaking down crying. Children going to school starving in 2020!
We intend to utilise as many funds available to continue with the food vouchers.
The 2.6 Challenge
Moira, Young Vincentians Programme Manager at the SVP and her husband Kevin took part in the 2.6 challenge this year as a way of raising much needed funds for the SVP Covid Emergency response fund. For a full week from 26th April to 3rd May 2020, they challenged themselves daily to write a 26 lined song or poem / prayer while walking 2.6 miles. They completed the challenge in full and ended up with four varied 26 lined poems which you can listen to here on the audio section of the Well and Kevin composed the music and lyrics for 3 songs highlighting some of the work within the SVP as well as perhaps some of our shared experiences during lockdown. Their aim was that these compositions would bring some sense of hope and we could all continue to place our trust in God in times of despair, sadness or loneliness. Despite experiencing all kinds of weather during the week, including very hot sunshine, really windy weather, getting stuck in mud and even getting caught in a heavy thunderstorm , delighted to say that their efforts paid off alongside the efforts of Katharine also from the Young Vincentians Team who chose to take part in a 2.6 challenge to read 26 books in a week including one book daily from her Usborne collection . Together between them both parties managed to raise a total of £1655 pounds through their 2.6 challenges for the SVP which will certainly be put to very good use to alleviate the suffering of others.
Helping Local Families
At our SVP Conference in Retford we approached all the headteachers of local schools, not only the Catholic one, to see if any families needed our help. Five families, from two schools, were known to the headteachers to be in need. So working through the heads four families were given tablets, so that the children could access their school work, one of those families also needed monetary help, and help with foodstuffs. The other family needed a single bed, as a child was having to sleep on a mattress on the floor, and groceries. Miraculously there was a spare bed in the presbytery, which was given up willingly, and we were able to help with the groceries as well. Our members have also been very busy in many other ways, including shopping, and telephone calls to those who are lonely, worried or unwell. We also tried to offer help via the local NHS surgeries, but that wasn’t taken up. We were also delighted by monetary donations given to help with our work.
Gardening of the Soul
For St Vincent’s Supported Accommodation in Newcastle lockdown has been difficult, some residents have not crossed the doors since the 23rd March. However, one day one of the resident’s noticed that the grass in a neighbouring garden was starting to get quite long. It just so happened that the garden belonged to the church next door and a quick trip to see the Priest gave them permission to mow the lawn. The normal gardeners would not be able to tend to the garden for quite some time and so the grass would have been out of control by the end of lockdown. After a cable and a lawnmower were located the resident set to work getting the grass back under control, but he did so with a twist. Onlookers were greeted with a love heart and the letters N.H.S mowed into the grass. The resident is planning to continue working on the garden, tending to the plants around its border.
Adapting to changing times
St Aelred’s Conference in York has been busy adapting to serving the changing needs of their community in these unusual and difficult times.
When the pandemic first started, notes were sent to those in the community who would normally have a regular visit from a member of the conference, explaining why they were no longer able to visit face to face, and offering telephone calls instead.
Many of the people supported by St Aelred’s are local families, awaiting the grants promised by the government. St Aelred’s was able to give out their usual Easter holiday vouchers a little early, as well as an additional one the following week, thanks to generous donations from parishioners. These help the families to buy food and essentials. In addition to the usual Easter eggs, families with young children also received a gift of a colouring book and pens through their letterbox to help to keep the children entertained during the lockdown. The conference is also maintaining links with local schools, to enable them to help more families in need.
St Aelred’s heard about a local catering company offering free microwavable meals, so arranged for these to be delivered to beneficiaries by members of the conference twice a week. The conference normally runs the parish collection for the local food bank, but instead of donating food items, parishioners have now been donating money, which can then be used to buy food as and when it is most needed.
When St Aelred’s would usually have had a conference meeting, the parish priest has been saying a Mass via Zoom, to enable conference members to pray together virtually, as well as having a little catch up afterwards. The work of the conference is still continuing, just in a different way.
Everyone Has a Sweet Tooth
Our conference at Holy Apostles and Martyrs SVP, Wallasey, have always given out chocolates on the Sunday nearest 23rd April to all our parishioners as they leave Mass, just to say thank you for their generous support throughout the year. This has meant buying (from our own pockets, not SVP funds) large tins of Quality Street, readily available around Christmas, standing at the door holding the tins and saying ‘Thank you from the SVP’ hundreds of times. This year we decided to take chocolates to the care workers in the care homes around our parish. We left them at the door with a greetings card to explain why we were doing this and to remind them of any past or present association with the SVP. We have also included in the card an SVP red leaflet with our contact details in. Members have delivered them on their way to the supermarket or on one of their walks. So far, we have delivered 9 boxes of chocolates and the response has been amazing.
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Simple Acts of Love
During this crisis a conference in Sidmouth, South Devon have become a great support to their parish and local community by being telephone befrienders. They started off by phoning around their 30 beneficiaries, but soon word got out and that number grew to 110 people. New volunteers then came on board, doubling their numbers. They have now expanded their services to retrieving shopping for those in isolation and even to providing emergency DIY work for those in desperate need. Without realising, their normal simple acts of love have come together to form a network of support for their local community.
The Chat Buddy System
At Saints Thomas & Edmund Conference in Erdington, Birmingham they wasted no time in making sure they were ready to meet the needs of those isolated during this crisis. As well as shopping and prescription collection they have set up a “chat buddy” system. The buddy system is where three volunteers are assigned to an isolated individual to regularly call them. This means no one person gets overloaded with calls, the beneficiary gets a variety of conversation and everyone can look after each other. They put this in place by working closely with their wonderful Parish Secretary, Pat Badger, who helped them get in touch with all those in the Parish who might be vulnerable. With around 40 volunteers and 30 beneficiaries things have been manageable, which means they can continue to support those in need for as long as necessary. They have also still been managing to collect weekly food bank donations and have been posting the parish newsletter out to Parishioners. Mike Warom, Vice-President, reflected that the SVP is so flexible it is capable of meeting whatever needs arise, particularly in this case with telephone befriending.
Lending a Hand to Families
Before Easter (and before the Government announced the official voucher scheme), Ascot & Bracknell Conference decided that it would be an appropriate gesture to try to reach out to a number of children at this particularly difficult time. Those we wished to help were ones who attract the pupil premium (ie normally receive free school dinners), others known by schools to be vulnerable and those who might still be attending school, even during what would otherwise be the holidays, because they have a parent designated as a key worker. We had existing communication with three primary schools within the two Parishes covered by our Conference and we were readily able to establish that they had a total of 50 pupils who met the criteria. We provided a £10 gift voucher for each child, distributed by the schools, together with an SVP leaflet detailing who we are and offering the potential for additional assistance, as required, using our Conference mobile number as a direct means of contact. Schools were, and are, maintaining liaison with the families of these pupils anyway, so distributing our vouchers was not an overbearing additional burden for the staff members involved. We have since used Parish and school newsletters further to advertise our existence, in order to attract enquiries from those who might normally consider themselves self-sufficient but who may now find themselves experiencing hardship as a result of these extraordinary times.
Turning Your Foodbank to Face Corona
Back in 2018, driven by the change to universal credit, the Canvey Island SVP and other local organisations, in particular the Canvey Island Youth Project, got together to create a foodbank. They started delivering around 20 meals a week out to those in need. As time passed local schools, parishes, supermarkets, Fire Brigade, Rotary Club and other organisations all got involved. When the 23rd March came around they were able to immediately respond. Since the lockdown they have provided 349 meals and 30 food parcels out to those in need. With essential support from two London restaurant owners and the Canvey Island Youth Project they have been able to supply 22 hot meals each day to those in isolation. Each person also received a luxury Easter egg courtesy of Waitrose. This is a community project that so many on Canvey Island have invested into. Just simply local people helping other local people and for the time being all completely organised from home.
Knit and Knatter
Before this crisis the St Mary’s Isleworth Mini Vinnies had been working hard learning a new skill, knitting. They started learning in the summer term of last year, it was tricky at first but with a lot of practise they got better. Once they became proficient they started to knit small squares. In all 108 squares were knitted, which they have now sewn together to make two blankets. They are hopeful that the blankets can be given to someone in need. They have really enjoyed learning how to knit and will hopefully be able to make more blankets in the future.
Keeping the Shelter Going
The local SVP conference in Westcliff had been running a Winter Night Shelter on Friday nights to provide shelter to rough sleepers; however, with the Coronavirus they were unable to use any of their normal buildings and had to work fast to find a venue capable of catering for their needs 7 days a week. They managed this and were able to provide shelter to rough sleepers right up to when the Council housed everyone in Hotels. They are also ensuring that no rough sleepers slip through the system or are left behind, providing accommodation and food as required. Next, they tackled the mammoth task of getting meals out to those 100 rough sleepers, joining with local soup kitchens and other organisations to make this happen. They have also been delivering cakes and other tasty treats to NHS and care workers, as well as running a new “Knock and Drop” service to those stuck in isolation.
Teamwork Makes the Dream Work
The SVP is normally very active in Crawley and these times of crisis are certainly no different. Despite many members having to self-isolate they have managed to maintain some wonderful mechanisms of support. Through donations from Fare Share and Parishioners they have been able to react effectively to the changing need for food parcels, normally delivered direct to families. In collaboration with three of their local primary schools they continue managing to deliver food parcels, made up by able members and other volunteers from the community, to the schools, for families to collect. Alongside all this they have maintained contact with their beneficiaries by telephone and continue to offer any support they can. SVP Crawley would like to give a special thank you to all those who support them, whether through donations, prayers or good wishes.
In my life I want to become better and do a little good— Frédéric Ozanam
We Can Overcome This
The SVP foodbank in Fleetwood, Lancashire has joined forces with the Anglican Mustard Seed foodbank and the West View Association foodbank to provide food parcels to both their own clients and the vulnerable and needy created by the COVID-19 virus.
President Alan Vincent explained "It was immediately obvious that all 3 of us needed to change the way we operated to protect our volunteer forces and to help a greater number of people without putting them at risk either. We therefore joined forces to put more food parcels together safely, then younger volunteers from mainly the West View Association delivered them using a van someone kindly lent us. There have been problems along the way, eg someone torched the first van in the Anglican church car park the first night we had used it! The lender however was not only sympathetic but also found us another one. Wyre Borough Council also allowed us the use of their Marine Hall in Fleetwood and allowed some of their staff to manually give out parcels safely from that venue. We have been giving out or delivering 100 parcels a day which have been very gratefully received. The whole joint effort is flying under the banner of Fleetwood together and the SVP can rightly be proud of the part it is playing in it"
Keep Your Community Spirit Going
A small conference based in Our Lady of the Portal & St Piran in Truro have been finding small ways to help their local parish community feel a little cohesion during these times. They have been producing a newsletter called The Portico and circulating it to their parish friends. The newsletter includes prayer requests and general parish news along with pictures of past events in the parish, to remind people that there will be a time when they can meet again. The newsletter then also contains all the contact information parishioners may need to ask for shopping or to find Mass online. Jenny one of the writers said “It just seemed very important to us to provide something to support and maintain community spirit during the Lockdown”.
Keep Your Foodbank Going
When Covid hit, St Joan of Arc Highbury Conference reacted quickly. We learnt that a local food bank had shut and so volunteered to take that over in addition to helping the people we usually visit. Since advertising our details with the local council and other organisations it has been all hands on deck. The phone has rung non-stop with people asking for help with food. We have organised a drop-in food bank and doorstep deliveries, serving hundreds of people a week. We have welcomed many wonderful TAMs and made contact with supermarkets, Fare Share, and other charities. We have received referrals from schools, the local authority, friends and neighbours and self referrals. We are stretched in terms of volunteers but the TAMs have helped enormously and we are all doing what we can. Those who are self-isolating for various reasons are fulfilling really important roles. These include manning the telephone, calling to chat to our isolated people, liaising with supermarkets, organising the volunteers and delivery times and routes. Those of us who can go out spend hours moving food, packing bags, double checking lists and giving out food. And we have totally taken over the presbytery - we used to have a small cupboard - now we have food and boxes everywhere (huge thanks to Canon Gerard King for his patience and generosity). It’s amazing what you can achieve when you have to.
RT @VinniesSVP: This week we have provided around 180 free hot meals at our takeaway @VinniesSVP lunch service. There has been some amazing…