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Almighty Father, we thank-you for the divine gifts of faith, hope and charity. Help us as Vincentians to live out these virtues in an increasingly isolated world. May we imitate your Holy Son, Jesus Christ, to unite our hearts with the heights and depths of your love. Hear our prayers and bless our work for the downtrodden and oppressed, those suffering from the effects of poverty, and those who are lonely and in need of support. Holy Spirit, inspire and work in us. We ask this of you, God, three-in-one. Amen.
These stories of SVP work in India during 2020 have come directly from our twinned conferences. Twinnage support from England & Wales is greatly appreciated by our brothers and sisters abroad.
Thank you - from St. Antony's, Coonoor
'Greetings in the name of Our Lord Jesus Christ.
Thank you is just two simple words, but it means the world if it comes from the heart. I thank all the members of St. Vincent de Paul, England, for your generous help. [These] twinning grants and special grants [have] helped the poor and the downtrodden brothers for food, education, medical help and house repairs, etc.
Prov: 19:19 says "Whoever is kind to the poor lends to the lord and will be paid in full"
On behalf of our Ootacamund Central Council, Gudalur, Ooty, Coonoor, Sathy Area Council and all the members of our conference beneficiaries, we wish you all a Happy and Blessed Christmas. May baby Jesus bless each and everyone. May 2021 be a sparkling year as you experience wonderful anointing and miracles from our Lord and Saviour.'
Photos by Ken Madine on SVP trip to India 2018. Please turn your phone side-ways
to see the proper resolution, or 'open image in new tab' / 'download image'.
Young coconut trees for parishioners
Christuraja (Christ the King) parish in Chevilai, Palappallam, have been giving food to those in need and ran a project to supply young coconut trees to all members in their parish - over 150 families! They also plan to give vegetable packets and cake to poor families, especially adopted (beneficiary) families, in time for Christmas.
On 22nd November they were privileged to have a patronal festive Mass for Christ the King, celebrated by their Bishop, Mar George Rajendran SDB, in which all SVP members and beneficiaries attended. "We used that time [to] pray for all of our Vincentians, especially for your intentions and those who are affected [by] COVID - 19. We thank you for your gracious prayer and support. We do pray for your family members and activities." - extract from their letter to All Souls & St Thomas More, Coventry.
Perseverance of a Junior Conference
In the face of COVID-19, Holy Family Junior SVP conference in Arukany, Thuckalay have been keeping up house visits, prayer gatherings and charitable activities regularly 'without any failure by the grace of God'. They are a group of 15 students spanning 4 class-years who meet every Friday in the school auditorium with the supervision of their co-ordinators and spiritual advisers. This year, as well as their usual activities, they have been distributing food kits, groceries, medicines and financial aid to people in their surrounding area.
'...this great gift of fraternity' - Christmas letter from Visakhapatnam
'Greetings in name of Bl. Frederic Ozanam and from Visakhapatnam Central Council, INDIA. It is a great pleasure for us to greet you brothers and sisters on the occasion of Christmas and New Year. We thank the Lord Almighty for this great gift of fraternity. Distance does not hamper the fraternal love between us. It is not exaggeration if I say that we pray for you in our weekly conference meetings, speak of you during our visits to adopted families. They should be aware how your sacrifices are able to support their families. We sincerely thank each and every member of your conference. Seasons change, time passes by but our fraternal relation does not change.
Now COVID-19 effected whole world like anything. We never faced the situation ever before. By the grace of God, no one was deceased due to Covid even if some are effected. We have received the special COVID fund from National Council of India. We have distributed some nutrition tablets, sanitizers and masks to some of our brothers and sisters. We are receiving Twinning grants from time to time. Thank you very much for your financial support in this crucial time. I expect the prayer support also from you.
We have faced two cyclones in the months of August and October. So many areas were drowned into the waters. We have supported them with local funds. Anyhow I can say, year 2020 is [a] BLACK YEAR.
All the Conferences to which you are sending twinning grants are quite well, they conveyed their CHRISTMAS GREETINGS to all our Brothers and Sisters in England.'
Helping orphans in Chakkampuzha
Lorethu Matha Vanitha (Our Lady of Loreto), Chakkampuzha, Palai, Kerala have been able to help to a local orphanage, providing them food and medical needs using the Twinnage grant sent them. They write: 'The Lord will certainly reward you for your silent service to the poor people in this part of the globe'
On COVID: 'We hope that everything is getting alright in your country though COVID-19 affected seriously. In our conference too we [could not] work for 3-4 months. But now we have [to] restart everything. We pray that the good Lord keeps you always safe and hearty, quite fit enough to be his messengers of love and concern for everyone around.'
Re-opening the Ozanam Institution
Thuckalay Central Council have revived their long-term project the 'Ozanam Institution'. This enables classes for 15 students in I.T. and 9 students for keyboard-typewriting.
'We're very thankful to the members of Shrewsbury Central Council. With their support only we could establish the institution and also for their Corona grant. It will be very helpful for poor families if we distribute the grant before Christmas.'
Report from Don Bosco Youth Conference - '...[twinnage is] a constant support and inspiration'
'It is with great pleasure and gratitude we the members of St. Don Bosco Conference, a youth conference wing of Trivandrum Central Council in Kerala, India write to you.
First and foremost, wishing you a Happy Christmas in advance. As the whole world is going through the difficult time of Covid-19, we believe that you are all keeping well and pray ardently that the pandemic may end very soon by the Grace of God.
At present, there are ten members in St. Don Bosco Conference. We have regular meetings on every Sunday at 09:30 a.m. In the Society Hall immediately after the second Holy Mass. We provide [a] food kit every month to ten adopted families who live in extreme poverty. We also support thirty old age women every month, who have nobody to look after them. On the occasion of Christmas and Easter, clothes are distributed along with [a] food kit. There are a few financially well to do people in our village, who make contributions to this endeavour and make it possible. It gives us immense joy and satisfaction to do this for the poor and the needy.
Almost all the members of the conference are from [a] poor background and many of us are still students. 95% of the population in our parish is engaged in fishing and this is the only source of income for most of the families. Our Parish community expands up to 1 km distance and 75% of the families are financially backward and struggling with the situation. We are extremely grateful to all of you for your generosity and we appreciate your efforts towards being a constant support and inspiration. May God bless each and every one of you abundantly.'
Building houses in Aicombu
St. Thomas conference in Kadanadu, Palai has been continuing their usual works of charity which include providing food and medicine to eight families, visiting them often, aiding the sick and helping students. With their most recent Twinnage grant they helped a poor family to buy a property and build a house.
This conference has been committing themselves to a housing scheme: 'In our parish, the total number of families are around 200, out of which 10 families are less fortunate [not] to have decent houses. With the help of the local government authorities, donations from numerous great people and utilizing the fund from you, we are attempting to build more than one house a year.
Once again thanking you for your liberal assistance and support even during the pandemic. May the Lord bless you with abundance of joy and warmth in your home.'
A thank-you from St. John the Baptist, Pizhaku, Urumbukavu, Kottayam
'We express our sincere thanks for your benevolence in being part of our charity works. The money has been spent on helping the sick, homeless, education of the less privileged children and so on.. With your support this conference is involving in various philanthropic acts and has achieved 'A+' grade.
Your kind contributions definitely enrich our efforts in uplifting the downtrodden. Our sincere prayers will be with you. May the merciful Lord bless you and your family.'
Tackling the 'severe threat' of COVID - St. Antony's Kattakode, Kerala
'We are in receipt of your communication and very much happy to hear about your vincentian activities.
Our world is affected by severe threat (covid19) and it reflects to our parish people a lot. Our parish is one among the highly populated church in our diocese. It involves more than 500 families. Most of the families are living under below poverty line and they are struggling to overcome the pandemic crisis. By considering the current issues, our conference is providing financial aid, because most of the people became jobless. We are providing food materials, masks, sanitizers, clothes etc. to the poor and needy. In addition to this we are giving financial help on loan basis through our twinnage project to do business to earn something for their livelihood. Besides [this], we pay care to facilitate educational and medicinal support to the poor people. We request your prayers for our successful functioning. We wish you a happy christmas and healthy new year ahead.'
Our Lady of Good Help, Mannoorkampo
Velankanny Matha (Our Lady of Good Help) conference in Mannoorkampo has continued their programme of assistance under the leadership of an intrepid president:
'May I introduce a brief history about our conference. I am a House wife and I took charge as president of our conference on November 2005. We have eight active members at present. We meet every Sunday at 7AM. Our Parish shows particular interest in our activities. Members of conference pay regular visits to families and 5 adopted students [beneficiaries] belonging to poor families. With the help of Twinnage grant and collections, we help these poor people for food, medicine, clothing and other immediate needs. We thank you, brothers and sisters, for your conference for the financial assistance to the poor people of our conference and pray for you all. Kindly remember us in your prayers...'
Read the uplifting reports from SVP activity collecting goods and gifts and distributing them to their local communities, despite COVID-19 difficulties.
Story contributed by Collete H.
Although 2020 will be remembered by many as a year of sadness and doom and gloom, we at Saint Joseph's SVP and Holy Family SVP conferences have a heart-warming success story to share with you.
Out of those cold lockdown winter months emerged a project of wonderful collaboration and hard work by an amazing group of people. The compilation and delivery of 90 hampers to care homes and individuals was inspiring and touched the lives of many in our community. Despite all the problems of lockdown restrictions, odd shaped cardboard boxes and wrong sized cellophane, we managed to create beautiful hampers purely because of the energy, goodwill, creativity and determination of those involved. Our starting intention was to provide a hamper of Christmas treats to make up for the fact that COVID-19 had scuppered our plans for our usual Christmas lunch party. The idea was to involve a variety of groups to make it a real community effort.
It was decided that St Joseph’s SVP conference in Sale should link up with our sister parish’s SVP conference, Holy Family in Sale Moor to manage the project. We invited the Youth SVP groups, other young people and the staff of Loreto Grammar School, Blessed Thomas Holford College and St Ambrose College to contribute to the project by collecting specific items for the hampers, making Christmas cards and decorating the hamper boxes. Our two parish primary schools were also involved in the collection of chocolate and making cards for the boxes. We were overwhelmed by their enthusiasm to be involved and the massive contribution they all made. We also involved the catering company who normally provide the hot Christmas lunch for our guests by asking them to make mince pies and individual slices of Christmas cake to go in the hampers. Our parish priest Father Stephen W. who runs both parishes, allowed us a special collection from parishioners.
In short, the success of our project renewed our faith in the human spirit to reach out to others, hope that we have the capacity to achieve even greater things in the future and confidence to believe that great good can come from dark times.
- Story contributed by Simon Corless, Deputy Head:
"Members of St Alban’s Catholic High School students, parents and staff have been collecting food and Christmas treats for deserving families in our community.
Thanks to the incredible generosity of our community mince pies, Christmas puddings and Christmas crackers are amongst the items that have filled 103 hampers, being delivered by our dedicated staff on the last two days of term after work.
We would specifically like to thank the local firm Stokes Sauces, who supplied a significant supply of beautiful jam.
We hope that this brings a little joy and happiness to those families, as well as shine a light on the good that we can bring to each other in challenging times.
By Gaye P., conference secretary
"…The Christmas Hamper Campaign has been running at St Margaret Mary, Park Gate, for several years, growing in size year on year. In the normal way a request for donations goes out to the parish in November and groceries are collected and purchased over a period of several weeks and stored in the parish hall along with an assortment of cardboard boxes and wrapping paper, gathered along the way. The campaign culminates with a large team of willing and merry volunteers working together in the parish hall in a convivial hands-on evening of sorting, wrapping and packing.
…In addition to the logistical difficulties, it was clear from early in our planning that, due to the knock-on effects of COVID-19, the need for the food hampers in December 2020 would be greater than ever. Unsure of how successful the fundraising campaign would be, given the pandemic restrictions, …there was a certain level of anxiety as to how many hampers we would be legitimately able to commit to. More than once we agreed to close the list only to open it again when further requests were received. However, having put our faith in God and in our parish the final total achieved was 88 – more than twice the number of hampers that the SVP delivered at Christmas 2019.
Social distancing and lockdown restrictions presented the team with obvious logistical challenges when considering the procurement of enough cardboard boxes of the right size and strength, as well as the wrapping paper and tape to cover them, the purchasing and storage of vast quantities of groceries and goodies, the packing of the boxes and the delivery of 88 finished hampers to schools, health visitors and private homes in our local community.
Prayers were said, team and sub-team meetings were held by Zoom, phone and Whatsapp, spreadsheets were created, roles were assigned, and, tasks, which in October had looked impossibly daunting, were completed with dedication and enthusiasm. None of this would have been possible without the ongoing generosity and support of the parish of St Margaret Mary as well as of friends from outside the parish.
As we enter 2021, with rising levels of COVID-19 and the consequences of this terrible pandemic, sadly, we anticipate increasing levels of hardship for many families in our community. However, we know that with the grace of The Holy Spirit and the continued support and generosity of our parish we will be blessed with being able to help more people in need than ever before."
It was late October 1989, I had just walked in the house from Mass on a Sunday morning. I had been the reader at Mass that day and my two boys both served on the altar. I also had my 13 month old daughter with me. I started to make toast and a cup of tea, but felt sort of sickly. I couldn't eat the toast - that's what Morning Sickness does to you. I turned around and said to my husband, who was sat at the table at this point, that I didn't feel well and thought I may be pregnant. His response floored me………
“you cant be pregnant when our marriage is in the state its in?”………..Why? whats wrong with our marriage?……."Well, I don't love you!!"
The bottom fell out of my world. He walked out of the room and proceeded to pack his bags. He left that day. What could we do? I had 2 sons aged 12 and 14, a baby daughter, another child on the way, a mortgage I couldn't pay because I wasn't working and no family around me.
It was a truly terrible time. I became so ill, I simply couldn't function. When I went to the doctors it turned out I was about 14 weeks pregnant. Still, to this day it upsets me remembering this time in my life.
Anyway, Father G. my Parish Priest referred me for support from the SVP. I knew the members from seeing them stood at the back of church at Mass times, but I'd never had more than a passing word with them. They took me under their angel wings and supported me through some very bad times.
So, it came to my due date, well, actually 3 weeks before my due date. I went into labour, it happened very quickly. Thinking I would be back home soon, I arranged for my neighbour to look after the children whilst another friend whizzed me to hospital. Things didn't go to plan, I haemorrhaged after the birth of my son. I was very close to death, I was losing so much blood. I had to be rushed to surgery. Nobody knew, I didn't know who was looking after the kids, it was just awful. Then after surgery, I needed several blood transfusions so I was in hospital for about 10 days. The neighbour had managed to divvy out the kids to other friends and had arranged for my older sister from Wales to come on my discharge from hospital to look after me. The hospital wouldn't let me go home with a new baby to an empty house. I was so poorly that the local authority gave me a “home help” for 6 weeks.
Then the SVP stepped in. They visited me often, they would do my ironing, cut the grass, watch the children for a while so I could have a bath in peace. They brought me cake, biscuits, sweets for the children, home baked pies. I couldn't have managed without them. When it came to the baptism on June 24th (St John the Baptist Feast) they even bought a new dress for my little girl so she looked smart. After the baptism, they brought food to my house so I could invite people back for a little celebration. It was all done with such kindness and never judging. In their honour my son was named Liam John Vincent. Liam is now 31 years old and married with 2 daughters.
I always knew that I would one day be able to pay back for their kindness. And as I am now semi-retired this was the time.
So two years ago, I contacted SVP Head Office to see if there was a group in my area. And there was, it was located at the church where my parents and brother are buried. I knew immediately I had a connection. I attended my first meeting after being invited by our President, Ela and found that my next door neighbour was also a long term member.
Now, through the SVP I volunteer on a weekly basis at the foodbank (this is temporarily on hold due to not being able to mix during the pandemic) and I've been involved in helping several local families who find themselves in a situation very similar to the one I was in 31 years ago. I also feel I have made true and lasting friendships through the group.
I hope you find my story of interest.
Regards and blessings
27 November 2020
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.
If you would like to know more or ask for any advice on doing something similar please email Sue on email@example.com
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.
Click here to open up each day as it comes during Christmastide, for a wealth of reflections and videos from Jon Cornwall, Head of Membership.
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