A core group of young men and women have been instrumental in making patients feel at ease as they move to and from mass at the Hospital chapel. Those who volunteer at Auckland Hospital have learnt many things along the way. A hospital stay — especially an unexpected one — can be tough. For those who volunteer at the hospital, the most important thing they have learned is to simply listen and be present to those whom they serve. Although time is short, the little moments created between the volunteers and patients help smooth out the healing process. Simply giving of one’s time willingly and graciously goes a long way to ensuring that a person in hospital is comfortable for the duration of their stay.
Feeding Families This Winter
Over the last few months, several Vinnies groups across Auckland have been providing hotmeals for families in their local community. These come at a much needed time of the year, as winter provides a challenging time for all families living in poverty. If something goes wrong there’s no additional money. In providing a meal, these young men and women give families the opportunity to satisfy other needs in their lives. This means an opportunity to focus on growing, learning and living without worrying about where the next meal is coming from.
Unlocking Our Potential
As of 2019, New Zealand is ranked as having the 5th highest incarceration rate amongst OECD countries. With a current prison population of around 10,000 people, the sheer number of those incarcerated makes for sobering statistics. Each week, Vinnies volunteers try to set this aside as they lead their ministry at Mt Eden Corrections facility. Each week, they are challenged and invited to put their best foot forward amidst it all. The resultant as an opportunity to look beyond the numbers and to connect with the humanity that is in each person they meet. Many volunteers feedback that no visit nor encounter is ever the same. Regardless of where the offender or victim has come from, each has their own story from which they may gain insight from. It is this invitation to insight that keeps the volunteers coming back.
Sealed With A Smile: Vinnies Volunteer in Opshops
Despite the onset of exams, sports commitments, and the general busyness of life – many young men and women have been helping out in the foodbank and opshop. Each have offered their time and efforts to making food parcels for our families who need help especially with the start of winter. As cold as the month has been, it has not deterred the volunteers who never cease to bring a smile to the faces of those who seek the Society’s assistance.
Experiencing a Snapshot of Homelessness
Everyone deserves a safe place to call home. For some people, homelessness means sleeping rough on the street or living in cars. For others, it could involve couch-surfing or house-jumping with friends or acquaintances. Homelessness is complex and results from multiple factors. For one night, the Vinnies of St Paul’s college sought to unpack the complexities through experiencing sleeping rough firsthand. With limited cardboard and resources, they put up their shelters for the night. Though it seemed the challenge would come from exposure to the elements, the true confrontation came from learning about the reality of those who have no place to call home. In the morning when they rose, they journeyed through the city and passed notable locations where people slept it rough. As the sun rose, their spirits lifted. By the end of the retreat they gained a greater appreciation for what they had, and how to best serve: to listen, to be open and to be honest. Armed with this experience, they now hope to put their bolstered values into action.
Food Drives for Families
Food insecurity means having a limited availability of nutritionally adequate and safe foods. It can also mean a limited ability to acquire personally acceptable foods that meet cultural needs in a socially acceptable way. Recent studies find that although the majority of children live in food-secure households, a significant share of New Zealand children do not. Almost one in five children live in food-insecure households. Many Vinnies volunteers have experienced the realities of this firsthand when volunteering at the local SVdP opshop, and have opted to combat this statistic through large food appeals. Marist College is one particular school that has been conducting a term-wide food drive – amassing over 1,000 food items and counting. These donations will go a long way to ensuring families have adequate sources of food during the winter season – particularly those who struggle to make ends meet financially.
Gathering as a Community: Auckland Vinnies Secondary Schools Council 2019
Recently this team of executives and the Ignite took part in activities and conversations that required courage through vulnerability. They spoke of their insecurities as leaders of their college, the complexities of youth and their hopes for the months ahead. It was the next step in servant leadership in order to grow awareness and allow for authenticity and empathy to be fostered.
Reaching Out to the Community
Throughout the last few months, there have been a series of conversations about creating a youth space for Vinnies outreach in the North Shore. They spoke of opportunities for moments of spirituality, and service through Vinnies opshops. In the spirit of friendship, this collective hopes to create spaces where voices are respected, stories are met with empathy, whenever possible, opportunities to promote concern for deeper needs.
Be the Light: Commissioning of Vinnies Leaders for 2019
Over 100 Vinnies youth leaders from across the Auckland diocese, came together for a Commissioning Mass at St Patrick’s Cathedral on the 13thof May. Celebrated by Pa Tipene, the theme of the Mass was ‘Be the Light’. This theme is very significant as it relates to the duties these leaders have courageously taken up, which is to guide one another through service in the local community.
It was here that the leaders received a Vinnies badge each, as well as a candle for each school group as a symbol of their unity. These badges hold a very significant meaning, as the three sets of hands depicted on them represent the pierced hand of Christ that blesses, the hand of love that offers, and the hand of suffering that receives. This encompasses the leaders’ duties to serve, as they must act upon God’s love to serve those in need.
In his homily, Pa Tipene remarked on some of what the Vinnies Youth were able to do in the community throughout the year so far. Further, he reminded those who were present about the importance of abiding in God’s love – to recognise the connection between the branch and vine as was mentioned in the readings of the day.
Feeding Families This Winter
Throughout New Zealand, there has been a stark increase in families and individuals struggling to put nutritious food on the table. This is a result of many factors such as the increasing cost of living, insufficient benefits to live on with dignity, as well as the stretching of resources amongst organisations tasked with providing emergency assistance.Sometimes, it is emergency situations like a sudden job loss, illness or injury that lead to a dire struggle to find food.
In response, the South Auckland Vinnies centre have increased their support for families. Many students from local high schools have since heeded the call to prepare bulk meals for families in need. Utilising donated produce from KiwiHarvest and funding from the Catholic Caring Foundation; these young men and women are able to efficiently create nutritious meals from scratch. The South Auckland Vinnies Centre has now become a platform for students to learn more about the community whilst developing their skills in the kitchen. Marcellin, Sancta Maria, De La Salle College and McAuley High School are among some of the schools that are rostered on to cook twice a week.
Visitation to Those in Prison
At times, it can be quite overwhelming to hear the range of problems that many New Zealanders have experienced in their encounters with the criminal justice system. Further, it is constantly sobering to hear stories of those who feel unheard, misunderstood and revictimised. As such it is uncommon to hear positive experiences of the criminal justice system from people who have been harmed. Seeking to meet some of the needs of those who are placed behind bars, a group of Vinnies visit the Mt Eden Corrections facility week by week. Within a system that focuses on punishment at the expense of rehabilitation, reconciliation and restoration; these young men and women aim to break down barriers through the sharing of stories and reflection. A simple exercise for some, but in many ways these are the very foundations that counter the presence of past wrongs – and deal with a legacy of social neglect. These weekly visits continually pay homage to the long standing traditions of St Vincent de Paul himself, who ministered to those who were imprisoned on galleys in his time; even while he himself was held captive. It is here within Auckland that the Vinnies Youth seek to do their part, to be present and responsive to the needs of those around them.
Journeying With Those in Medical Care
Anyone needing encouragement, comfort, or a sense of belonging gain much from someone simply being present. While that could include everyone, there are certain individuals such as those in Hospital care who especially need to be reminded that they are not forgotten. Each Sunday, a group of Vinnies Youth accompany patients to and from Sunday mass at the Auckland Hospital Chapel. Often just being there matters more to them than what is done or said. As a place of healing and recover, the presence of all who volunteer at the Hospital Chapel communicates that genuine care is the bottom line in visiting someone in need.
Back to Basics: McAuley High School Schoolwide Can Drive
Throughout the year, schools often host can drives to supply local foodbanks. In a bid to maximise the amount of cans that are donated – students typically add a competitive element by awarding house points for each item of food dropped off. This year the Vinnies leaders of McAuley High School sought to go against the grain and remove this tradition. As a testament to their 2019 Mercy Value “Aroha”, they gathered as a collective to remind one another about why the cans are collected: for community, not competition.
Food for Thought
Students from across Vinnies Youth Auckland have been engaging in some very key conversations about the community they serve. Prisons, Homelessness, Food Insecurity and Social Exclusion are among some of the topics that they have been unpacking. Each of these have been explored in terms of impact in the context of Auckland, New Zealand.
The discussion amongst the students and feedback was that the statistics about their local community was both shocking and sobering. Many were quite disturbed by the findings. Discussions included the significance of factors such as wages, gender, health & discrimination and how these might impair a family’s ability to put food on the table, or for an individual to put a roof over their head. They have also looked at the direct relationship between poverty and New Zealand’s incarceration rate.
Whilst looking at a small snapshot of this reality, they have spent equally time in exploring the significance of belonging and positive socialisation. Over the term each of these Vinnies group will be engaging in service projects and social actions that uphold what they have learnt so far.
What Makes a Home – Home?
The students of St Peter’s College Vinnies hosted a sleepout to stand in solidarity with those who are homeless. During the program they built shelters, learnt about, experienced and prayed for those who do not have a place to call home. Most of those who attended were junior students, and so they had to look to one another for morale as the night grew colder. With the guidance of the adult leaders present, they all braved the elements outside on cardboard under tarpaulins. Many reflections were shared the next day about how this experience really challenged their understanding about makes a home, a home.
KiwiHarvest: Making Food Matter
New Zealand industry generates more than 103,000 tonnes of food waste per year, and it is estimated that 60% of food going to landfill is edible. In an effort to curb the amount of food wastage, an organisation known as KiwiHarvest is seeking to change the way we look at food itself. We are truly grateful to receive regular visits from KiwiHarvest, an organisation that collects good food before it goes to waste and distributes it to those in need to nourish the wider community. The significance of these donations are that they allow the foodbank to remain well stocked; particularly in vegetables and dairy products that contain many essential nutrients to sustain the families we serve. We are thankful for this opportunity as they provide an innovative way for businesses to redistribute excess good food.
Heeding the Call: AVSSC Monthly Gathering
The recent gathering of the Auckland Vinnies Secondary Schools Council (AVSSC) 2019 provided a platform for the leaders to share the challenges they face as students, young people and leaders. The shared responses were of the pressures of juggling academic and extra-curricular, leadership and family responsibilities. Many of these leaders echo what has been shared amongst youth collectives across their age range: The pressures of not being able to meet expectations, the struggle with not having their voices heard and recognised, the complexity of communication and also of not having the affirmation and support.
When asked about what “being safe” meant to them. Their shared responses were about being accepted, not judged, having peace and freedom, being affirmed and supported, achieving, being valued and heard and also having a sense of belonging and purpose. What they came to understand as a collective was that being able to share this with others face to face alleviated some of the pressure. They recognised that it allows compassion and empathy to create a sense of solidarity. Renewed in their commitment to one another and the tasks before them, these leaders hope to put their learnings into practice over the weeks to come.
Caring for the Community
Across the last few months we were truly grateful to receive numerous non-perishable food, clothing and bedding items on behalf of the many families in need within Auckland. This comes at a very important time, as the cold weather has led to many families needing our services. Through these collections, St Vincent de Paul Centres in Auckland were able to remain well stocked; allowing the Society to divert much needed resources towards preventing food insecurity among families.
Each year, the students of numerous colleges never cease to falter in their care for the community. From can drives to making foodparcels for families, the students who visit Kingsland Vinnies experience first-hand how their donations make a difference. To ensure donations are processed quickly and distributed to families, these young men and women have been busy stocking the foodbank and opshop, preparing food parcels and portioning bulk meals for local feeding projects.
Unpacking Social Justice
Seeking to unpack social justice and where the Society of St Vincent de Paul fit in amongst it all, the Vinnies of Sacred Heart Girls College Hamilton took part in a day retreat led by members of the Auckland Youth Team. Throughout the day they discussed the implications for people who lack the basic needs and also the vital opportunities that are fundamental to one’s development and livelihood.
It brought forward many feelings such as shock, gratefulness and most important of all – hope that their ongoing actions will make a difference. Amidst a busy school term they heeded the call to step back and recognise their own giftedness, the reality of those whom they serve and the call to serve their fellow brother and sister in need.
Student Reflection: Unlocking Our Understanding of Prisons
Recently, the Vinnies youth team visited Carmel College and explored the theme of Prison. In the session they focussed on storytelling. As part of the activity the young Vinnies were first given a few story characters with particular attributes, the young Vinnies were asked to figure out who they they gravitated to or found a connection with. Unbeknown to these young Vinnies all of these characters were actual inmates in a prison and the stories were real and were actual people that the Vinnies prison team have spent time with and grown to know in the Mt Eden Prison. The team then spent time sharing the different stories of these characters and explaining some of the events that led to them ending up prison.The session was received well by the Young Vinnies.
This type of session is an “empathy tool” that helps bring students closer to the charaters in a safe space. It helps to remove the stigma and judgment and allows for connection, humanisation and empathy to develop. It also helps educate students on the Why? and the How? and the complexity of peoples lives and also the complexity of prison. This session sought to remind everyone that these people we call prison inmates are also human and worthy of God’s love. It is important that we show compassion to those we seek to serve, this includes those in lrison and especially their families. Today the team felt they helped break down some of the walls of stigma, stereotypes and judgment and helped refocus on the light of Christ that resides in all.
The team were also very honored and felt really affirmed by the presence of Maria, Patricia and Manu who are Vincentians from the North Auckland Area. It was also lovely to learn of their special connection to Carmel College. Maria and Manu are old students of Carmel College and Patricia has taught at Carmel for over 25 years. It was truly a blessing to have our elders with us to tautoko and affirm us all in our Vincentian journeys.
Prayer for Ongoing Ministries
Lord Jesus, you who loved the poor, give us eyes and a heart directed toward the poor; help us recognise you in them, in their thirst, their hunger, their loneliness and their struggle.
Enkindle within us all, courage, unity, simplicity, humility, grace and the fire of love that burned in St Vincent de Paul, St Louise de Marillac, Blessed Rosalie Rendu, Blessed Frederic Ozanam and all the founders in Oceania
Strengthen us, so that faithful to the practice of these virtues, we may contemplate you and serve you in the person of the poor, and may one day be united with you in your Kingdom.