The SVP works to help those in need in a variety of ways. Its core business is through helping those locally in need through the parish conference. However, it is also very active helping those in need in other parts of the world. This is achieved through Twinnage.
Twinnage was initiated to bring justice to the developing world, putting the SVP’s founder’s words into action: “Justice is a fixed star which human societies try to follow from their uncertain orbits. It can be seen from different points of view, but Justice itself remains unchanged.” (Blessed Frederic Ozanam)
What is Twinnage?
Twinnage is the mechanism through which SVP groups in developed countries provide support to SVP groups in developing countries. Twinnage involves mutual prayer support, correspondence and regular financial support. SVP groups in England and Wales can currently twin with SVP groups in India, Sudan, South Sudan, Grenada, Guyana and Romania.
As SVP groups here are made up of local members of the community, in developing countries this can mean that local groups do not have access to significant funding. Twinnage ensures that vital funding reaches even the poorest communities in countries where the SVP exists.
The financial support received by SVP groups in developing countries enables them to provide immediate emergency aid to those in need as well as financing longer term projects and schemes that make the local population self-sufficient, eg supplying bicycles, sewing machines, animals, or providing loans to start small business and digging wells to make communities sustainable.
As well as simple twinning between groups in participating nations, additional support can be provided in the form of financing for small projects (up to £1,000), student sponsorship and some larger projects, especially in the Sudan.
A further development has been the Disaster Fund, which is aimed at providing financial support to SVP groups living in disaster areas, who can then provide support to those in need in the local community, not just while the cameras are there, but in the longer term.
The History of SVP Twinnage
The SVP’s commitment to person to person contact appeared to preclude developed countries helping those in need in developing countries until Pope John XXIII suggested a “twinnage programme”, whereby SVP groups in different countries could support each other.
The International body of the St Vincent de Paul Society matches developed countries with developing countries, ensuring that all countries that would benefit from twinning arrangements are able to do so. In England and Wales the SVP was first twinned with India, and over time additional twinning arrangements have been added in line with our capacity to give. Romania and South Sudan are the most recent twins.
The emphasis on mutual prayer support and correspondence as well as the regular financial support remains as important today as when the Twinnage programme was conceived. In 2015, Conferences in England and Wales were twinned with 1,792 Conferences overseas.
What does Twinnage Involve?
Prayer: Prayer is the key aspect of any successful twinning. The Society’s prayers include: “Grant your grace to our Holy Father the Pope, to all who help us with our work, to our twinned brothers and sisters… Lord hear us.” The promise to pray for the twin sets Twinnage apart from a secular exercise.
Correspondence: Although correspondence empowers a good relationship with a twin, ensuring a closer link, language and postal difficulties can make it difficult and we should never put our twins in danger from antagonistic political regimes. Nevertheless, correspondence (letters or emails) build relationships and should be exchanged at least three times each year. In this way a true bond can be established.
Financial Support: The tangible evidence of our sharing is shown by our Financial Support. This helps our overseas SVP members to increase their efforts to overcome the poverty in their own communities. For legal reasons all monies are transferred through the National Twinnage Scheme and are never sent directly to local groups. Countries receiving the funds are asked to report on how the money is distributed and used.
If you would like to find out more about Twinnage or how to get involved with the SVP, please visit the SVP website at www.svp.org.uk or contact Lance Philpott, SVP Membership Development Officer for Hallam at firstname.lastname@example.org.