The Christ centred, compassionate approach of the St Vincent de Paul Society’s 8,000 active volunteer members is an important aspect of their care for people who are sick. Last year SVP members visited more than 27,000 people who were in hospital or suffering from mental health problems or living in residential homes. Many of these people will have been without family and friends in close proximity and the SVP will have been the only visitors they received. In all these visits, SVP members offer company and friendship as well as practical assistance that contributes to a person’s recovery.
Take Alfie for example. Alfie was an elderly man who had been in hospital over a year and did not seem to be getting any better. The hospital was a long way from home, which made it difficult for his family to pay him regular visits. It didn’t take long for Alfie to feel isolated and he sank into deep depression. His family contacted the SVP Conference nearest to the hospital and asked whether they could do anything. Members began to make visits on a regular basis. By coincidence, it transpired that two of the men who visited Alfie had worked in the same industry as him. During the visits a bond formed between these three men. Gradually Alfie began to take more of an interest in life and in turn his health began to improve. Eventually he was well enough to be discharged from the hospital altogether. Companionship had changed Alfie’s outlook, and lifting his spirits had helped him on the road to recovery.
SVP National President Adrian Abel says: “People like Alfie fall sick for all kinds of reasons and end up in hospital or at home, often on their own and with no visitors. The SVP cares about these people and last year visited 14,000 people in hospital as well as countless others who are sick and housebound. SVP members might drive a person who is unwell to a doctor’s appointment or they may visit to pass the time in pleasant conversation, bringing cheer and encouragement. These are all incredibly valuable sources of support for someone who is suffering sickness.”
All forms of poverty can have a devastating effect on a person’s emotions and sense of wellbeing which is why the SVP seeks to offer friendship, a listening ear as well as practical support for its 80,000 beneficiaries.
Through the month of September the SVP is raising awareness of poverty in its many forms by running a campaign entitled ‘Who Cares?’. So far the campaign has focused on how the SVP cares for people suffering loneliness, hunger, material poverty, and this week the campaign focuses on sickness.