The Gift of Whanaungatanga
Whanaungatanga is about building long-lasting relationships. It also about whānau and communities working together. This allows for collectives to make decisions and act in ways that support sustainable growth. At the Society of St Vincent de Paul centre in Auckland Central, the new space has allowed for new connections to be made and nurtured. Alongside having a foodbank and advocacy hub, the facility has created opportunities for hospitality, both for those in need as well as those who volunteer. In Auckland we are fortunate to have such a diverse and talented volunteer base. This is further strengthened by the countless leaders, mentors and wider family groups who continue to support the Society of St Vincent de Paul. Across all age groups, these individuals have been the back-bone of the Society; assisting those who are homeless, those who are incarcerated, those who are elderly and isolated, the hungry and the marginalised. Recently, a number of volunteers from across the high school and tertiary programmes in particular gathered for an evening of whanaungatanga, so as to share in the joys of their service and bring together their experiences. The Society is grateful for these amazing people who live out kanohi ki te kanohi (face to face) connections.
Students Leading the Way in their Communities
As part of the Secondary Schools programme, emphasis is placed on giving students as much opportunity to develop their leadership skills as possible. The Auckland Vinnies Youth Team also recognise that these are some of the most important years for student volunteers. The invitation therefore is to sustain programmes which are thought-provoking, meaningful and fun. In essense, it is about providing the tools for these young men and women to navigate their service and faith journeys together. It has been insightful connecting in with student leaders from across Auckland recently, as they have varying hopes and needs for the year ahead. There is a sense of excitement as they lay out their plans for service within the community; laughter as they consider how to live into their roles amidst school work and other commitments. Irrespective of where they are placed for the year, there is an underlying hope that they will complete 2020 with a greater understanding of the communities in need as well as their call to support.
Earlier in the month, the Auckland Vinnies Youth Team had the opportunity to meet up with the entire Year 12 student cohort of Marist College. It was moving to lead a session on Catholic Social Teaching within a space brimming with passionate students. The purpose of this visit was to bring to life the ways in which the Society of St Vincent de Paul practice these teachings. It was also an opportunity for students to assess how they understand needs within the community and how they inform the decisions they make around assistance.
Sharing a Meal with the Community
Auckland City Mission is a hub in the heart of the city, providing a source of support for those without a home, those with addictions and those struggling to put food on the table. In 2019 alone City Mission distributed 23,000 emergency food parcels to families and individuals in desperate need. They were able to house over 50 people through housing first, provide 17,000 medical consultations to vulnerable, high-needs patients; and admit 354 people to residential drug & alcohol detoxification. At the centre of their services is a recognition of peoples dignity and the significance of compassionate care. The Society of St Vincent de Paul is grateful for the opportunity to journey alongside other organisations that support the community. The tuesday night shared meal for wahine continues to run strong, with many volunteers from the Society taking part. This is a space for women to cook a hearty dinner and connect in with other women who do not have a place to call home. It is the spirit of conversation and sharing stories that make these mealtimes so memorable.
Experiential Learning Through Service
The Society of St Vincent de Paul recognise the importance of seeing a need, reflecting on how to address it and acting in a way that upholds the dignity of people at all stages. By providing a space for new volunteers to learn what service looks like, this has brought forth a wealth of knowledge in terms of culture, servant leadership, and vulnerability. The Vinnies Centre in Auckland Central has been fortunate to host a number of groups seeking to learn about the community and the significance of leadership. Unibound assisted the Vinnies Centre staff with making bulk food parcels as well as packing and sorting care packs. Throughout these processes, the prospective students learn about the needs of the community and why these services are so important.
Journeying with Those who are Incarcerated
Volunteering at Mt Eden Corrections facility has provided an insightful experience for those involved. Operating at almost full capacity, over 1,000 people are currently incarcerated at this facility. Though the chaplaincy volunteers do not get to meet all of these individuals, they seek to create meaningful encounters with those whom they serve. Regardless of where the offender or victim has come from, each has their own story from which they may gain wisdom from. Taking place on a fortnightly basis, the volunteers involved lead a liturgy of the word; providing a space for sharing in kōrero (conversation) and waiata (song). These experiences are significant as they provide an opportunity for reflection and compassionate understanding. Yvonne, a key leader of the Vinnies volunteers has been serving in this ministry for over five years. Prior to this, she has led the way in countless other ministries and youth groups. Her care and compassion has inspired many other volunteers and has especially had a significant influence on those who are in prison. It with sadness that Yvonne has since moved abroad for the next chapter of her journey. The Society of St Vincent de Paul recognises her contribution to the community and wishes her the best in the years to come.