People in England and Wales are going hungry, and the St Vincent de Paul Society of England and Wales is calling for help from every quarter to meet the need and outface the scandal of food poverty and insecurity, both of which are on the rise as coronavirus containment measures continue to tighten and make themselves felt.
The elderly, people with pre-existing health conditions, those in financial difficulty, and individuals with mental health problems are the most vulnerable. The global health emergency, with restrictions on movement and forced distancing from friends and loved ones, is especially difficult for persons already facing those and other, similar or related challenges.
SVP of England and Wales are conducting a national drive against this backdrop, to start more community volunteering groups. The charitable organisation has reached out to parish priests throughout the country, and now calls for people to join under their banner to address the growing need for support as a second lockdown puts increasingly dire pressure on social and healthcare services.
“You can help to change people’s lives,” said SVP President Helen O’Shea in announcing the national drive. “If there’s no SVP group in your parish, then consider starting one,” she added. “You won’t be alone,” she assured, “we [at SVP] will give you all the help you need,” to help those most in need.
“The most need this season is food poverty,” SVP communications officer James Welton told the Catholic Herald on Tuesday. “We at the SVP are seeing a threefold increase in requests for food parcels.” He also said SVP are seeing increased need in the areas of debt relief/advice and loneliness (particularly in the older generation) during periods of lockdown.”
Welton told the Herald that SVP have their networks and operations in place and already assisting: they are working well with other groups to offer significant help, but are punching above their weight and need the support of concerned parishioners able to aid them in every parish throughout the country.
“We are reaching those in need via our members in communities,” Welton said. “We have also established close links with other agencies who are referring people to us.” SVP’s modus operandi involves relationship-building with a personal touch that is a hallmark of their outreach and a cornerstone of their success. “Our core befriending service is the primary method of establishing need,” he said.
“We need more members and more volunteers,” Welton explained, frankly remarking the gravity and urgency of the situation. “Obviously, funding is essential to carry out our work, but people who want to join the SVP to make a difference in their community (and who will be fully supported by the SVP) are essential to our mission.”
Anyone interested in offering help – or finding it – may consult SVP’s Rise to the Challenge page. Further details are at the bottom of the SVP press release, below.
SVP launches national volunteering drive
As pandemic restrictions continue to tighten around the nation, the St Vincent de Paul Society (SVP) has reached out to every parish priest in the country as part of a national drive to start more community volunteering groups.
The letter to parish priests contains a plea to communities across the country to seek out and help individuals who face hardship of some kind, whether that be emotional, physical or financial. The letter, which references Pope Francis’s new encyclical to the world on fraternity and social friendship, Fratelli Tutti, challenges us to “unite in a spirit of cooperation in facing the needs of the world together.”
The SVP is made up of small groups, traditionally called Conferences, based in parishes, whose members selflessly make a real difference to the lives of others through befriending, and by providing food, clothing or other essentials. At a grassroots level, SVP Conference members made almost half a million visits in the last year, offering hope and support to those in most need.
The SVP is reaching out to all Catholic parishes for people to join together under the SVP banner to address the growing need for help and support as a second lockdown puts intolerable pressure on social and healthcare services.
SVP President Helen O’Shea says: “We all have a desire to do good – it’s what makes us human. That spirit is needed more than ever today during another period of uncertainty in lockdown, which will undoubtedly see more lives devastated by this unrelenting virus.”
Whether becoming a member or joining together to form a Conference, the SVP offers a range of benefits including insurance, comprehensive training, access to special funds, informative and inspiring webinars, and ongoing help and support.
Helen O’Shea continues: “If you cannot ignore the suffering around you, then you can help to change people’s lives. If there’s no SVP group in your parish, then consider starting one. You won’t be alone – we’ll give you all the help you need. Perhaps you are already a member of a volunteering group, but you’d appreciate advice and help, then become an SVP Conference and you’ll receive all the support you need from a Society with almost 190 years of experience.”
Since coronavirus entered our lives, the cruelest effect on society is the manner in which it targets the most vulnerable members of our communities – the older generation, people with pre-existing health conditions, those in financial difficulty, and individuals at risk of mental health problems. It imposes restrictions on our movements and distances us from our friends and loved ones.
SVP members and support centres across the country are gearing up for an increase in demand. Food banks, ‘knock & drop’ food deliveries, and befriending support are just some of the services offered by dedicated SVP members to alleviate the suffering inflicted in the wake of the pandemic.
The SVP has launched Rise to the Challenge, an innovative awareness-building campaign designed to help people better understand the work of the SVP and to raise funds to help those in most need. The campaign encourages people to join the SVP and make a difference to their local community.
Pope Francis points out that the pandemic has “exposed the plight of the poor and the great inequality that reigns in the world”, adding: “The harmony created by God asks that we look at others, the needs of others, the problems of others, in communion.”
Helen O’Shea concludes: “The SVP works quietly, creating a fairer society through kindness, caring and community spirit. We are all fighting the pandemic together, and together we are stronger than we can imagine. Jesus asks us to ‘love your neighbour’. We are all neighbours. We can all help. We are all capable of love. Join us and together we can fight the effects of the pandemic, save lives, and in the process rebuild our communities.”
The SVP is hosting a number of information meetings online, which are open to all. To join, simply email [email protected], and receive a Zoom invitation. Alternatively explore the webpage at www.svp.ork.uk/fellowship.
For more information or to donate to the SVP’s Rise to the Challenge campaign, go to www.svp.org.uk/rise, @SVPEnglandWales (#SVPRiseChallenge) or telephone 020 7703 3030.