Readers may have been following the history of the Society of St Vincent de Paul in recent editions and will therefore be aware of its early years, its development over the last 175 years and the nature of the organisation it is today. Last month’s article focused on the reason why people volunteer to help those in need and this month the focus is on what volunteers actually get up to.
Initially members of the SVP aim to befriend those in need, establishing trust and confidence through personal contact and offering whatever practical assistance they can. The major activity for all conference members in Hallam is visiting. This is done in pairs to protect both members and those they are visiting. All SVP members who undertake visits will have had an enhanced DBS check.
Those visited will include the sick and housebound, the elderly and isolated as well as individuals and families that need help, support, guidance or practical assistance. The SVP will visit anyone within their community regardless of age, gender, race or creed – need is not discriminatory so neither is the SVP.
Of these visits the vast majority are to people’s homes but visits are also carried out to local residential care homes, hospitals, hostels and in certain areas of the diocese, prisons.
For most the visit just brings company, friendship, conversation and an opportunity for interaction which is all that may be required. For others it will provide an opportunity for members to learn about the issues, problems or barriers that person is facing which will facilitate the provision of more practical assistance. For example, being able to help with filling in forms, accessing one of the two furniture stores in the diocese, if that is what is needed; directing people to more specialist help such as debt management or counselling.
Other SVP activities within Hallam include offering lifts to Mass, church services or parish social events; taking the Eucharist to those housebound; organising and running food banks; undertaking soup runs and fund raising for any local projects or events. In addition, members help ex-prisoners and others in need ‘start up’ when moving into rented accommodation.
Some SVP members work with refugees in the north of the diocese, as well as linking with care facilities such as the Carmel Care Centre in Hillsborough. Social groups in sheltered housing encourage local people to get together with guest speakers and organised activities.
The diocese also runs two furniture stores in Sheffield and Edlington, as well as five community shops in Maltby, Harworth, Staveley, Manor Park and Abbeydale Road, Sheffield – the latter working closely with the Sheffield furniture store.
Conferences are also involved in the Twinnage scheme where, like town twinning, two conferences are linked. With the SVP, a Hallam conference will twin with a community in a deprived part of the world – currently Grenada, Guyana, India, Romania, South Sudan and Sudan – and offer support by way of prayers, financial aid for projects, eg digging wells, educational materials and other resources that will benefit that community.
If you are interested in finding out more about the SVP or setting up a conference in your parish, please contact Lance Philpott, SVP Membership Development Officer for the Diocese of Hallam, at Lancep@svp.org.uk.