Final School Visits
Throughout the year, the Youth Team have been privileged to walk alongside 14 Catholic Colleges in their journey of service. This final school term has become an opportunity to reflect on that journey and formally give recognition for their works of service to the community. In retrospect, many students recalled the moments of struggle when putting together service projects. Others spoke of the insight such struggles brought about, and how their experiences brought them closer to others – especially those who are vulnerable and marginalised. There was a resounding sense of gratitude and happiness for what was achieved however. As the students looked at the range of activities that had been done throughout the year, their spirits became lifted. What began as a simple sign-up sheet and weekly meeting, soon became a platform to grow, connect and learn from those whom they serve. “The small things matter… we learn by serving others”, says one McAuley High School student. With these experiences voiced out, they hope to apply them into their everyday lives and in future service endeavours. In the meantime, the Society of St Vincent de Paul are deeply thankful for their works throughout 2018. These included but are not limited to:
- Weekly support for SVdP Foodbanks making foodparcels
- Weekly mentoring programmes at De Paul Emergency Housing Centre, Takapuna
- Weekly homework assistance at St Pius Primary School
- Bulk food drives to supplement SVdP foodbanks
- Bulk clothing drives
- Cooking bulk meals for the community
- Preparing and serving meals at Ronald McDonald House
- Cancer awareness, fundraising and support initiatives
- Gardening for the elderly
- Picnic days for Oranga Tamariki / Children under care
- Cooking meals for those who are homeless
- Cardmaking for those who are incarcerated
- Rest home visitation
- Homelessness Immersion experiences
- Care pack collections for families
Each of these projects has brought the members of Vinnies Youth Auckland closer to the community. We give thanks to all staff and students involved, as well as the many collectives throughout Auckland with whom we are connected to.
Caring for Those who are Incarcerated
The first visit to a corrections facility as a volunteer minister can seem daunting at first. The array of forms to fill out, the checks and processes to learn, as well as the prospect of interacting with those who have been incarcerated can become overwhelming. However, the chaplains who reside at Mt Eden Corrections facility go out of their way to ensure all involved are made to feel welcome and valued. Approximately 1,700 volunteers work with Prison Chaplaincy Services Aotearoa to provide religious support for incarcerated men and women in NZ. New volunteers are shown the ropes, and in the case of the Vinnies group who attend – they are given every opportunity to share their gifts and talents.
The experience is a two way street, as many of those who reside behind bars often share their wisdom and talents in return. The Vinnies group lead a liturgy of the word, sharing the messages of the Gospel through speech and song within at least two housing units within the facility. Alongside a few other collectives anywhere between 10 and 12 services can be celebrated on a given Sunday. In one week alone, it was found that a total of 148 men were listed as attending these opportunities to share and reflect. For new volunteers, they have noted that it has built their confidence, shattered stereotypes and given a platform for a greater understanding of the criminal justice system to be realised.
West Vinnies’ Social Event
In preparation for community projects in the Christmas season, the Vinnies of both St Dominic’s and Liston College have run a series of fundraisers. Recently, the two groups hosted a neon themed social gathering. The proceeds of this fundraiser will go towards an upcoming community day for the families at Ranui Caravan Park. Recognising the youthful side of being a Young Vinnie has allowed both groups to tap into their talents and organisational skills to provide a social event that is tied to a specific work in the community.
Connecting With Those Who Are Homeless
Whether it’s a temporary set-back or a long-term issue that needs expert attention, the Auckland City Mission seeks to give aid to families and those who have no place to call home. In 2017 alone, a total of 112 people who were homeless were successfully housed. Often aside from simply having a place to call home, individuals yearn for a sense of belonging and someone to talk to. Each weekend, a group of Vinnies aid in serving tea and coffees to those who come through the City Mission doors.
Over a cuppa those who are gathered engage in conversation – sometimes tales of what was discovered earlier in the day, a funny story from the street or sometimes an insight into what brought about a life without a home. These opportunities for genuine connection are well received by all, with some volunteers opting to volunteer every week so as to keep their friendships strong. Hearing their stories and simply being present is significant for those who volunteer, as it reveals that homelessness is a complex and multi-dimensional issue. Each experience of connection affirms this fact.
Helping the Healing Process: Hospital Visitation
With over 1,100 beds, the Auckland Hospital can become a busy space at any time of the year. Amidst the journeys of recovery and healing, a few faithful Vinnies dedicate their morning to accompanying patients on the way to Sunday Mass.
These short, brief moments of exchange to and from mass build upon the sense of community in an institution that values health and wellbeing. Many of the Vinnies who volunteer on Sunday’s also partake in studies within the health sector. In recognizing the importance of face to face contact, that which they learn in University becomes all the more significant. Sunday volunteering at Auckland Hospital will carry forward until the end of the year.
Thanksgiving Ceremony 2018
Within Auckland, Vinnies Youth comprises of 14 Catholic high school groups, as well as a young adults conference. Numerous other project-based groups are located across city central such as those at Auckland Hospital, Local Resthomes, Mt Eden Corrections Facility and Auckland City Mission. The thanksgiving ceremony is an annual event which recognizes the achievements of those who lead in the aforementioned. It is through their care and compassion that so many lives were aided within the community. To date, 2018 has seen a total of 46,580 volunteer hours completed. This is telling of the impact created by each group as they prepare and run their service projects. During the ceremony, those gathered were honoured to celebrate such deeds – the service works, relationships built, and faith journeys of the Youth leaders as well as their respective groups. In addition we also heard some poignant words of wisdom from Deacon Martin Wu, our celebrant for the night.
He spoke of the importance of connectedness and remaining faithful to the gift of service. Deacon Martin also gave his blessing to the leaders, beckoning them to carry out their works for the many years to come. Last of all we recognized the significance of parents and caregivers who attended the ceremony. The Society was mindful of the many late nights spent picking up their children from leadership gatherings, afterschool projects and special events throughout the year. If not for their care and nurture the students would not have been able to achieve what they set out to do. Each leader was presented with an award, as well as a few tokens of appreciation for the journey ahead.
Afterschool Assistance at SVdP Centres
Despite the incoming exam season, the Society of St Vincent de Paul are grateful for the many students who have continued to support their local foodbanks and opshops. On any given day, anywhere between 10 and 15 families can come through the SVdP Centre in need of food assistance. There is no doubt that the students’ assistance in ensuring that foodparcels are prepared neatly for families and maintaining the retail area has made serving the community all the more smoother.