Final AVSSC Gathering
Pictured below are the leaders which make up the Auckland Vinnies Secondary Schools Council (AVSSC). When asked eight months ago what their understanding of the Vincentian charism was, the room sat in unnerving silence. Fast-track to the month of September at their final gathering, and their presence communicates anything but. What began as a mixed sense of excitement, anxiety and hope; soon unfolded into moments of unforgettable insight and learning. The final gathering of these leaders was an opportunity to feedback their differing experiences and what they learnt about the Vincentian charism. As leaders, they have heeded the call to guide and mentor their respective school groups in service works throughout the community. The feedback was enriched by the insight gained by experiences in serving the vulnerable and marginalised in society. Tales and narratives which were shared mirrored those of the Vincentian founders 200 years prior, a poignant reminder that the Society of St Vincent de Paul is grounded and sustained for the many years to come. The youth team are thankful to have been a part of their formation for the last eight gatherings. As the term unfolds further, these young leaders go onwards to prepare for end of year examinations and the wrap up of their service works for the year.
Cooking at Ronald McDonald House
Tasked with maintaining the wellbeing of families when a child is in a New Zealand hospital away from home, the Ronald McDonald House provides a haven for healing to be nurtured. Families come to the House in Auckland from across New Zealand. Though the average length of stay is seven days, many families will to stay for weeks and months on end. The Houses provide a home away from home, offering families a safe haven to retreat to, after a long day on the ward.
As part of taking care of the practical things in life, the Ronald McDonald House relies on volunteers to help cook meals throughout the year. This year, two Vinnies collectives – The Young Adults and Sancta Maria College both took a turn each in cooking up a bulk meal to support the families residing in the housing units. With scrumptious food and varied entertainment, these young men and women created an escape from the clinical world of medicine, to take comfort in the familiarity and routine of a home-like environment. Both groups put their teams of master chefs together, fundraised, planned the meal and made it a night that kept families’ spirits high so they could continue supporting their child in hospital. There was plenty of left-overs to go around, giving families who missed out on the night the flexibility of eating a meal without losing precious time preparing it.
Cans for Christmas
The Society of St Vincent de Paul woulsd like to take this time to give thanks to the numerous schools, students and families for contributing towards the Cans for Christmas food drive throughout the last month. This initiative was spearheaded by Billy Hadnett and Michael Mullin, two secondary school teachers in Auckland.
Over 21,000 cans were collected to support families in need across Auckland. We also want to acknowledge the helping hands of students from St. Paul’s College for making light work of those boxes.
Thank you on behalf of the many families the Society of St Vincent de Paul seek to assist.
Tamariki Day: Picnic for Kids
As an annual event, the Tamariki Day is a picnic hosted by St Peter’s and Marist College for children under care. A group of students from both schools prepared a day full of sports games, painting, arts and crafts; as well as an extensive banquet table. The air was soon filled with screams of joy and laughter as the children came through the doors. At the end of the hall, the caregivers relaxed with a cup of tea and chatted with some of the Vinnies Youth Team.
Many of these caregivers look after anywhere between one and eight children at a time, and so the opportunity to sit back was well received. There are lots of different ways children and young people come into care. Usually there’s time to plan how this will happen. For example, a decision might be made at a family group conference that it’s best for them to live with their aunty, or in another caring environment. Sometimes the decision for a child to live with someone else happens quickly, because there has been an incident or emergency situation where the state is needed to work quickly to make sure they are safe. Each situation is different. But the focus of the picnic has, and always will be as a platform for youth to enjoy a day filled with positive socialisation and new connections. As the picnic came to a close, the children bid their farewells and went home exhausted and happy. The caregivers were in awe of the students’ energy throughout the day – hosting over 80 young children was no easy feat but all were grateful for the opportunity to connect with one another.
New Beginnings: First Vinnies Project by Marcellin College
There was a sense of excitement amongst the Vinnies of Marcellin College, as they finished their classes for the day and swapped their books for an apron. As a new schools group that joined Vinnies Youth in 2018, these young men and women chose to run a cooking project to feed local families in the community.
“We wanted to do this because they deserve better… They Matter to us”, says one of the students as they reflected on the experience afterwards. In the space of a couple hours, these students were able to prepare 110 meals, ready to distribute to families in need. Confident that their first service project as a Vinnies group was a success, the collective looks forward to building upon their experiences and seeking more opportunities to serve.
Homeless Sleepout Experience
In July of 2017, the Auckland Council put the city’s homeless number at 23,409 – a statistic that has grown by more than 3000 since 2014. Looking beyond the numbers, the Vinnies of De La Salle College opted to take their learning one step further and sleep it rough for one night. The immersion experience proved cold and miserable, with many of the students equipped with only a single sleeping bag and a few sheets of cardboard to keep them warm for the night.
“This is the reality for many who don’t have a place to call home”, says Bob Savea; one of the Youth Team members present on the night. The experience required the students to build shelters and learn and share reflection about homelessness. Each groups’ presentation was as poignant as the last, and remained that way even into the early hours of the morning. During their dawn reflection, the participants shared honestly about their struggle to find sleep, how much they had taken for granted, and how they sought to apply their learnings into future service programmes. Recognising homelessness as more than a statistic, these young men left the retreat with a stronger sense of what it feels like to be without a place to call home.
Recently we were honoured to be approached by Yara Richmond and Adrian Mui Senior, advisors of the Northern Region of Ministry of Pacific Peoples to provide a platform for Pasifika youth leaders to engage with one another. The Ministry for Pacific Peoples is the Crown’s principal advisor on policies and interventions that improve outcomes for Pacific Peoples. Across the Vinnies Youth of Auckland, there are many pasifika in leadership positions within high schools and tertiary collectives, and so the evening provided an opportunity to bring voice to the journey of leadership and care. The subject matter for the gathering was success, what that looked like for pacifika people and how this was reflected through the pipeline from early childhood education, to schooling, tertiary education and finally the workforce, entrepreneurship and their own families.
Cooking for the Community
Throughout the term, the Vinnies of both Carmel and Rosmini College have chosen to explore the concept of homelessness. There are many reasons why people become homeless and the issue is complex. Some homeless people are living with mental illness and/or addictions, while others are not. However, homelessness is frequently a result of being socially, emotionally and physically isolated from networks that many of us take for granted. With this knowledge gained, the Vinnies of the two colleges cooked a bulk meal for distribution at Auckland City Mission. The Mission is one of the few remaining social service providers in Auckland’s inner city and one of our key focus areas is the support of those who are homeless, especially those sleeping rough on Auckland’s inner-city streets. With the help of college staff, the students made short work of the meal and were soon dropping it off in time for dinner at the mission.
Feast Mass of St Vincent de Paul
At the end of September, Vinnies Youth Auckland hosted the Diocesan Youth Mass. The theme was “Live in Me” and was celebrated by Monsignor Bernard Kiely. The event also coincided with the Feast Mass of St Vincent de Paul, with less than 1000 coming together at the St Patrick’s Cathedral.
The youth presented a moving animation of the Mass’s theme, bringing the messages of the homily to life through dance and song. It was a poignant Mass filled with music, prayer, and recognition of the life of St Vincent de Paul.