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Recent articles about the St Vincent de Paul Society – SVP – have covered a range of aspects of the society including its founder, its history and more recently how it works and what it does locally.  This article is the start of an occasional series presenting factual accounts of SVP activity, taken from the SVP publication ‘Changing Lives’, where SVP support and assistance has resulted in just that.  Names have been changed to protect anonymity.

Visiting the lonely

When Tom’s wife died after 22 years of marriage he muddled along, unable to express the deep grief he felt.  When his cooker also broke down he felt life was conspiring against him.  He contacted the SVP, grumbling that his ‘dismal pension’ wasn’t enough to cover the cost of replacement.

  We visited to find out exactly what Tom needed and discovered that the kitchen appliance had very little to do with it.  The first time we met him he was grumpy and embarrassed to be asking for help.

  We listened to his needs over a cup of tea.  We were able to find him a cooker fairly quickly, but far more importantly, Tom has become a dear friend with whom we have shared many a cup of tea.  As is so often the case the cooker was the cover for a much greater need.

(Help us to love and respect those we visit and to understand their deeper needs)

Supporting the homeless

Paul’s life fell apart in his mid-40s after a series of misfortunes and relationship breakdowns.  He was forced to live in doorways and car parks as a result.  However the local SVP Conference wouldn’t allow him to let these hardships dictate the rest of his life.  Instead they helped him set up a new home for himself and scoured the countless charity shops so that they could get all the basic necessities.  It took some months but eventually Paul was settled into his new home and it was a joy to see him warm and comfortable.  He wrote to his SVP helpers saying, ‘Thank you all so much for turning my two rooms into a cosy home.’

(Love your neighbour as yourself)

Helping those in crisis

Anne contacted us when she awoke one day to find her niece, Laurie and Laurie’s two young children on her doorstep.  Laurie had finally found the courage to escape her abusive husband in Ireland and they had managed to get to Sheffield.  Anne was delighted to see them but desperately worried as they had nothing: no clothes or possessions.

  Within a couple of days the local SVP group had given the children toys and clothes, including a school uniform for the eldest child, as well as clothes for Laurie.

  Jo, the SVP member who visited the family said, “It was humbling being spontaneously hugged by a cheeky 4 year old who was beyond delighted with his clothes and toys; even more so when I said he could keep them.”

(Come Holy Spirit, kindle within us the fire of your love that we work with humility)

  These are just three examples of how the SVP has provided assistance to help change peoples’ lives.

  If you would like more information about the SVP, or are interested in joining, please contact Lance Philpott, Membership Development Officer for the Hallam Diocese, by email: Lancep@svp.org.uk.