Each year, the local Diocese and Auckland Catholic Youth Ministry present the Tu Kahikatea Awards. This award is named after the New Zealand Catholic Bishops Conference statement – Tu Kahikatea: Standing Tall.As such, the Tu Kahikatea awards recognise the gift that youth bring to their families, schools, parish, as well as the wider community around them. It is also about recognising and affirming them for their outstanding contribution to those in need. A number of youth were called forward to receive a gift and blessing, some of whom were involved with Vinnies Youth Auckland over the past few years.
Vinnies Youth Recipients of Tu Kahikatea Award 2019:
Each Award indicates the Tu Kahikatea component for which the young person is being recognised. The eight areas components are:
· Justice and Service
· Leadership Development
· Community Life
· Pastoral Care
· Prayer and Worship
The mass was celebrated by Monsignor Bernard Kiely, who led a poignant message about servanthood and leading with a compassionate spirit. Regardless of the component each awardee contributed towards for the Tu Kahikatea award, they were acknowledged for leading the way for compassion within the Catholic church. Families and friends were present to support their loved ones as they celebrated this significant event.
Final School Visits 2019
As the academic year draws to a close, the Youth Team have been wrapping up the schools programme. Recently they had the privilege of connecting in with the Vinnies of St Mary’s and De La Salle College to give thanks for a year of service. These schools have carried the charism if St Vincent de Paul with humility and love. De La Salle Vinnies in particular were recognised for their faithful service at the South Auckland Foodbank. It was here that they attended each week without fail to cook bulk meals for local families. As the exam season unfolds, the Society of St Vincent de Paul wish to give thanks for the care that the youth have put into their year of service.
The Vincentian Way
If asked to consider the three main characteristics of their lived spirituality, many Vincentians would probably say that they were compassion, friendship and prayer. The Society of St Vincent de Paul in Auckland are fortunate to have Vincentians such as Claire Murphy, as well as Gerald & Heather Hart who for many years have empathized emotionally with people who suffer as a result of material or spiritual poverty. They have led the way for the youth of today through deeds of mercy and action for justice. As in days of old with the Daughters of Charity, these same Vincentians have fostered numerous friendships through a sense of mutual respect and care. This, in a sense has become the lived experience of their prayer: to encounter and assist the same Christ in the poor. Auckland Vinnies Youth are grateful for these elders who have provided governance, funded, supported and helped sustain the Vinnies youth programme over the last 25 + years. The Auckland Vinnies youth team and young adult members are very grateful and moved by their commitment and servant leadership.
Working Together to Support the Community
The Society of St Vincent de Paul are grateful for partnerships with organisations such as KiwiHarvest who help to ensure that families don’t go without food in their home. To date KiwiHarvest have been responsible for redistributing 3,200,000 kilos of quality food which would otherwise be discarded as waste. Their assistance is significant as they seek to reduce the negative impacts of food waste within Aotearoa whilst also providing nutrient rich sources of food for those in need. The food is sourced from a number of growers, manufacturers, wholesalers and retail food businesses; which is then added to foodparcels destined for a home.
The Christmas Appeal Begins!
Recently the Society of St Vincent de Paul in Auckland launched the annual Christmas ‘Feed a Family’ Appeal for those in need. This appeal is particularly for the families that we have journeyed alongside throughout the year. The team have already begun sorting and getting to work on the database of names which have been compiled.
Last year, the Vinnies centre was inundated with requests for food by families and individuals, from those living alone and/or in emergency housing facilities. We are hopeful that through the generous donations of the ‘Feed a Family’ appeal we will be better equipped to support those who seek our assistance. We give thanks for the generous donors and volunteers who are making this Christmas appeal happen.
Happy Birthday Robert!
The Gundry Foodbank wishes to give thanks for Robert, who recently celebrated his 73rd birthday! Robert has been of invaluable service to the Society of St Vincent de Paul beginning his journey in 2004 and serving faithfully for over 15 years. He was an active volunteer in the Kingsland opshop and assisting with the pick up and logistics of goods for families; now having a hand in ensuring the foodbank at Gundry runs smoothly. The Society of St Vincent de Paul thanks Robert for his long service and wish him good health on the journey ahead.
Volunteering in varying ministries within Vinnies Youth has brought forth new ways understanding, of valuing one another, as well as a nurturing of love and respect. Whether in prisons, hospitals or with those who have no place to call home; a number of volunteers have made a pledge to committ to something larger than themselves – by committing to give back in whatever way they can. Each week, volunteers at the prison lead a minstry of the word: providing first and foremost a space for those who are incarcerated to connect and pray together. Those who volunteer in the hospitals provide care for patients attending Sunday mass, making the time to take patients back and from their room. The true gift of this encounter are the conversations and healing that unfold. Lastly, the Auckland City Mission host a weekly cook-up for women who lack a home in the Auckland CBD. The women involved enjoy a hot and scrumptious food together; trading stories and laughter into the evening. Each of these ministries in turn have brought various community together, and so the Society of St Vincent de Paul wish to acknowledge the countless hours contributed towards the betterment of others.
A number of High School Vinnies groups are gathering for the last time this year to reflect and celebrate their journey for 2019. The Youth Team alongside a number of Vincentians have been visiting each of these groups in turn to present awards of service recognition. These awards acknowledge the countless hours spent in projects, awareness programmes and connections made with those around them. Staff of these school groups were also acknowledged as they were invaluable in ensuring that these young men and women reach their full potential in the work of service.
It has been a fulfilling journey for these young men and women as they have journeyed with many different people throughout their community. In addition to this they have taken part on many awareness workshops where they have been challenged about their views on society. The Youth Team brought these experiences to the forefront in their final reflections; providing a space for the students to feedback the insights of their volunteering. On behalf of all whom these students seek to assist, the Society of St Vincent de Paul give thanks.
Long Service Acknowledgement at Sacred Heart College
The Society also gives special thanks to Margaret Ward of Sacred Heart College who has been the teacher in charge of the Sacred Heart Vinnies group for over 10 years. She will be stepping down from this role and will be sorely missed. Margaret has been an invaluable source love and care. As a Vincentian she has guided many students on their service journey, many of whom have continued this long after high school.
Cooking and Connecting
Homelessness is complex and results from multiple factors. Recent studies show that the most at-risk groups include those with mental health issues or alcohol and drug addictions, as well as those experiencing family violence. The reality of this social issue is that it is increasingly affecting groups who have not traditionally been at risk. At the Auckland City Mission a number of young women have been leading the way in creating space spaces for cooking and connecting in with those without a place to call home. Each week the collective host a dinner at Auckland City Mission for women. They take the time to prepare the meals by hand and spend time with the women who come in for the dinner. The Young Vinnies involved recognise the gift that comes from face to face interaction, as well as the power of sharing in stories, laughter and song. This project alongside others throughout Auckland are designed to ensure that people feel a sense of welcome and belonging wherever they be on their life journey.
A New Season
Recently the staff of Vinnies at the Newton centre bid farewell to Mary Masters who has journeyed alongside the team since February 2019. She has been helpful and skilled in her role as the financial administrator. Mary has been a wonderful addition to our team and will be sorely missed. The Society of St Vincent de Paul gives thanks for her work, her love and presence.
A Year of Service
As a way to end their academic year before entering the exam season, the Vinnies of Carmel and Rosmini College gathered for one final service project. In the space of a couple of hours, these young men and women whipped up a meal to feed over 150 people. This meal will soon be distributed to local families in need. The school groups have learnt throughout the year about the significance of food insecurity, as well as the impact of their service projects. The students involved hope to inspire those in younger years to follow their lead and care for the community as lovingly as they have.
Journeying with Those who are Incarcerated
At times, the volunteers who lead prison ministry at Mt Eden Corrections are overwhelmed by the range of problems they hear of New Zealanders who speak of their encounters with the criminal justice system. Time and time again there are narratives of pain, brokenness and intergenerational suffering. The Vinnies who lead this ministry recognise that finding solutions to the problems they have heard are not simple. This is a reality that is acknowledged and where hope of the ministry stems from. Amidst the narratives of brokenness, there has been an equally powerful presence of whānau, understanding, love and a growing sense of belonging that comes through healing past hurts. This ministry has invited people from all walks of life to work together and have trust in one another’s ability. With delicacy and care, the Vinnies involved hope to provide a space of spirituality and peace for others. These allow for the taking up of responsibility for past wrongs and to begin to deal with a legacy of social neglect.
For over 25 years, the Kingsland Vinnies Centre has served countless families within Auckland. It has been home and haven to a thriving food bank, opshop and youth office; each of which has created a space for people to come together and grow. As the journey at the Kingsland Centre comes to a close, it is fitting that the impact of these services are now brought to the forefront.
Food insecurity is a challenge that no New Zealand family should have to experience. However, this has not been the case in Aotearoa.
In households with children, this form of insecurity is evident when adults or children has no reliable access to adequate food. It occurs in cases where caregivers feel anxious about where the next meal will come from, or are forced to rely on charity or emergency assistance programmes. Within Aotearoa, food insecurity is largely the result of a lack of sufficient money for food, although other socio-cultural factors play a role.
The Kingsland Foodbank recognises the importance of nutritional and accessible food, particularly for families in need. The team are aware that through the simple provision of foodbanks, this can address, at the very least the possible adverse health, development and education consequences.
On a typical day, anywhere between 10 and 20 families seek food assistance. These families come from all walks of life. Some live in the most deprived neighbourhoods, others with a primary caregiver on the benefit, and others who live with a sole parent. Regardless of their situation, the team provide a space where the stories of these families can be heard, and where necessary, the right avenues of support advised.
The Kingsland Vinnies Centre have been fortunate to have had a strong foodbank management team. Some of these young men and women have volunteered for over 20 years. They have provided countless hours in sorting, packing and organising dispatch of food parcels. They have walked alongside thousands of families and helped create a community of sharing.
Kingsland Vinnies Opshop
The Opshop in Kingsland has been pivotal in bringing people together within the local community. Aside from providing low-cost clothing, furniture and household items, the shop volunteers have provided a warm smile and inviting conversation for all who walk through the door. Each day the men and women involved ensure that the stock are set out nicely, and also assist the foodbank in putting together food parcels.
The older volunteers enjoy having the students around, who often share stories of their Vinnies experience. Elders need accompaniment, but the lack of understanding in needs and worries often cause a divide between them and the younger generation. The Opshop bridges this divide by creating an open space of positivity and hospitality.
A benefit of having an opshop near central Auckland has been the opportunities created for local young vinnies from high schools. These provide a platform for youth to see firsthand where their donations go towards. In learning through experience the students build upon their values and form lasting bonds that translate to stronger acts of service for the wider community.
Kingsland Youth Offices
Alongside the foodbank and opshop, the youth office has created opportunities for young people to be involved in shaping and driving the Vinnies Youth Programme in Auckland. It has been a space where creativity and oppeness could be nurtured. This provided the space for the services of the Kingsland Centre to become directly intertwined with the development of services and programmes for youth.
As the centre for the development of Auckland Vinnies Youth, the team has sought to create a feeling of connectedness to others and to wider society. Each year, the youth programme has grown, ensuring that those being served feel positive and comfortable with their own identity.
The Society of St Vincent de Paul have been privileged with the expertise and energy of many young men and women over the years. They have brought with them a strong sense of family and whānau, and brought the charism to life within schools, communities as well as their own peer groups. The Youth Offices have been spaces of connection, prayer and hope for the future of the Society.
The Auckland Vinnies operations have since moved to Gundry St, Newton. The foodbank and youth programmes will continue to run at the new facility, congruent with the many memories and stories shared at their previous location.
For our Wahine: Supporting One Another Through Connection
It is estimated that 1 in 100 people within New Zealand are homeless. Based on the street count, it’s estimated there were approximately 800 people unsheltered across Auckland on September 17, 2018. Approximately 48 percent of these people are wahine (women) who have no choice but to sleep it rough or live in precarious, transitional housing. There are countless stories of vulnerability, of suffering from harassment, violence and abuse. There is a pervading sense of anxiety for those who have no place to call home. Women often have to either keep to themselves, band together or have a partner to ensure their safety.
In response to the harsh realities of homelessness within Auckland, Vinnies have been meeting with Auckland Citymission leaders and members of Te Miringa Trust to roll out a new initiative to care for the wahine who need a safe space to relax, have dinner and just to be with other women.
As part of the new initiative, female volunteers from Vinnies and Te Miringa Trust volunteer each Tuesday to provide manakitanga (hospitality) through the hosting of an evening dinner.
The venue is provided by Auckland City Mission, who also provide the kitchen facilities and array of ingredients. A team of 6 Vinnies work diligently to prepare a hot scrumptious meal of “Fusion food”, designed to be nutritionous and filling.
Through a simple dinner, the these women are invited to form close connections with one another, to share experiences of women who have been there, done that; who know that connection building isn’t simply one and done. But rather, about nurturing healthy relationships and banding together as a family.
Loaves and Fishes: Making Food Matter
In response to learning about food insecurity within Aotearoa/ New Zealand, a number of schools continue to show they care through food appeals and cooking programmes. These initiatives have been aimed at supporting local families in need. In providing the neccessary items to make a meal, these allow families the space to focus on other aspects of wellbeing in order to become more secure.
The large amount of canned goods received over the last few weeks have been distributed to foodbanks across the city, with pre-cooked meals being prepared and provided to families in their respective communities. The Society of St Vincent de Paul would like to thank the many Young Vinnies who have contributed to the welfare of those around them.
One Family: Auckland Vinnies Youth Celebrate Feast of St Vincent de Paul
At the end of September, Vinnies Youth Auckland hosted the Diocesan Youth Mass. The theme was “We Give Thanks to You Oh God” and was celerated by Fr Martin Wu. The event also coincided with the Feast Mass of St Vincent de Paul, with almost 1000 coming together at the St Patrick’s Cathedral.
To celebrate the feast day, the charism that St Vincent de Paul displayed was recognised through the youth gathered, who received awards in recognition of their love and service fro the community. The mass included a poignant message of care for those we seek to assist, with music led by both Grace Ministries and Mother of Divine Mercy Youth.
The Society of St Vincent de Paul wish to thank the many young men and women who have made a commitment to service, particularly throughout 2019. To all our our connected Vincentians, principals, staff members of our secondary schools, leaders in the tertiary sector, Vinnies parish groups, as well as our families; thank you for your invaluable support of the work we do. The following people were recognised for their services to the community:
As part of the Vinnies Youth Programme, schools that are involved receive regular input sessions for education and formative purposes. These are designed to inform their service works throughout the year. Over the last month, the connections formed in these schools have culminated in a series of regional gatherings for Vinnies Youth. Primarily hosted for senior students, the collectives are invited to share with one another what drew them to the Vincentian charism – and how they choose to live it out. These gatherings unfold as an opportunity to have conversations around openness and vulnerability. It also provides a platform for students of differing opinions to connect and explore the power of unity. As fatigued as the students were from juggling the numerous realities of their student life, they were thankful for the opportunity to take a step back and reflect on their journey to date. Through reflective process these young men and women were able to feedback to their collective the ways in which they enjoy service – and the challenges they hope to overcome before the year has ended.
SVdP National Leaders Gathering
The National Vinnies leaders from Wellington recently came to Auckland to host a gathering. The purpose of this gathering was to look at ways to revitalise membership for the Society of St Vincent de Paul. Vincentians from across the north island were in attendance, as well as several young adults from Vinnies Youth Auckland. There were facilitated discussions among the regions on how to sustain the Society for the foreseeable future, and which steps might need to be taken to realise it.
Students Caring for the Community
As part of the schools youth programme, the students involved learn about the community and social justice issues such as food insecurity. They have come to know that food insecurity reflects the limited ability to source nutritional and safe foods. For many of them, they know all too well what going to school hungry might look and feel like; and how this is common for families in wider Aotearoa society. In being mindful of these facts, the same students have gone on to lead cooking programmes at their local community kitchen. The purpose of these cooking sessions are to provide a source of nutrition for families who are in need within their community. Each of the schools involved enjoy these moments to bond in the kitchen, and put into practice the things they are learning as part of the Vinnies Youth Programme.
Feed a Family Appeal
Every year St Vincent de Paul Kingsland give out over 2500 food parcels to Families in need. The Feed A Family Appeal was therefore set up to support families struggling to put food on the table. A number of parishes have endorsed and launched the appeal within their collectives this month:
St Josephs Parish Grey Lynn
St John Vianney Parish Hillsborough
The Good Shepherd Balmoral
St John Vianney parish led a bakesale stall to further contribute to the cause. The generosity shown by each of the congregations has been immense. The Society of St Vincent de Paul would like to thank Fr Iosefo Timo, Fr Francis Poon & Monsignor Bernard Kiely for their support of the appeal in their respective parishes.
St Cuthbert’s join the Vinnies Youth Community
The Society of St Vincent de Paul wish to congratulate the staff and the new Vinnies leaders of St Cuthbert’s College for establishing their first Vinnies group. The first visit was built on connecting, sharing, learning, empathising and taking a closer look at their lives and those who are affected by poverty. During the session the staff shared about Vinnies Youth, the Charism and some of the work carried out by Society of St Vincent de Paul throughout Auckland. The response of the students was positive and the youth team expressed that it was such a privilege to be a part of St Cuthbert’s first meeting for 2019.
Developing their Toolkit: Vinnies Youth School Visits
Each week, Vinnies Youth collectives in the high schools gather for regular meetings. The purpose of these gatherings are to provide vision, and tools so that students can engage more effectively with people they serve. The Youth Team often run additional sessions within the high school to add to their expanding skillset. These include:
Empathetic skills e.g storytelling, compassionate understanding etc.
Guiding skills e.g. motivating one another, public speaking etc.
Learning skills e.g. Critical thinking etc.
Facilitating skills e.g. listening, recognising potential, team building etc.
Creative skills e.g. inspiring, empowering etc.
The development of these skills have allowed students to think more deeply about their involvement in the community, and how they can put their learnings into practice as they lead their respective service projects.
Cans for Christmas – Food Appeal
Cans for Christmas was established in 2015 as a community building project between the Catholic Schools around New Zealand to donate cans of food to their local St Vincent de Paul or Foodbank. This time last year, Cans for Christmas had grown to include 47 schools in 2018 and raised 22,000 cans of food for those in need. Earlier in the month of August, some of the Cans for Christmas team have begun dropping off hundreds of crates of food. These are destined for families in need within the community over the Christmas period.
Supporting the local opshop
The Society of St Vincent de Paul based in Kingsland have been privileged to have the assistance of students in the opshop. These young men and women have been pivotal in ensuring the stock are set out nicely, and putting together food parcels for families seeking assistance. The older volunteers enjoy having the students around, who often share stories of their Vinnies experience, or even of the odd items that are donated which have a history of its own.
‘Feed a Family’ is an appeal run by the staff of Vinnies Kingsland and supported by the Vinnies young adults. Through July and into the beginning of August this is being launched at the local parishes around the Auckland CBD periphery including the St Patricks Cathedral to raise funds for food support. The purpose of this appeal is to support families who are struggling to put food on the table. The people who come to us seeking support, vary from your city rough sleeper, through to parents and grandparents both with jobs who simply cannot put food on the table due to extra costs. Other people are referred through social service providers, Work and Income, mental health services, refuges, prison and so forth.
‘Feed a Family’ is therefore more than simply an appeal, it is an opportunity to connect with a family, and truly make a difference. Recently, the Vinnies Youth have been running the appeal across parishes in Auckland – seeking to bring awareness about food insecurity and what people can do about it.
Supporting the Community
The number of families and individuals affected by the shortage of food and resources during these cold months has grown exponentially. The students of Marist College are aware of the unfolding statistics as they have learnt these in school. They are also aware of the reality of these families, as they have encountered them firsthand within their service at the local opshop. These young women have chosen to make a difference. Throughout the last few weeks they have mobilised their school and collected over 4000+ items of food to distribute to families across Auckland.
Gathering As One Community: “Remain Steadfast”
Leaders from across Auckland hosted an event for youth from various regions, ministries and colleges across the Diocese. The theme was “Remain Steadfast”. The hope was to establish and foster friendships with one another other, and provide a platform to sustain these connections into the foreseeable future. The day included conversations on faith and service, as well as participation in activities such as, praise and worship, team bonding activities, keynotes and adoration. This was well attended by many Vinnies Youth, who gravitated to finding a space for formation and connection with fellow servant leaders.
Authentic Leadership and the Call to Serve
The Auckland Vinnies School (AVSSC) leaders council gather each month for formation and community development. The recent gathering was led by AVSSC Alumini Latayvia Tualasea-Tautai. Latayvia is a member of NZ Social Welfare Expert Advisory team, Co-Founder Labournesia and student at the University of Auckland. She shared on her experiences as a leader in high school, and how faith, family and culture have shaped her journey of service. These young leaders have reached the half way mark of their academic year, and so this session provided a platform for them to reflect on their own leadership and the way forward.
Catholic Caring Mass 2019
The Catholic Caring Foundation hosted their Annual Caring Mass at the Christ the King parish church. This Mass was celebrated by Bishop Patrick Dunn and was attended by over one thousand people. It was moving to see people from many social service providers and community groups in attendance. These were men and women who committed themselves to making the world a better place. In attendance were also students from various schools who were invited to receive Caring awards in recognition of their love and service to the community. The Society of St Vincent de Paul are grateful to the Catholic Caring Foundation for supporting the Vinnies Youth programme through the many years including this year. There is no doubt the support has made a significant difference to the youth program. A beautiful part of the Mass was the acknowledgement of different volunteers and staff nominated by their work places to receive a Catholic Caring award. Theresa McCallum received an award from Bishop Pat Dunn and the Catholic Caring Foundation in acknowledgment for her many years of service to the poor through her work at St Vincent de Paul Kingsland. At the Vinnies Kingsland Centre, the the Team have had the privilege of working alonside some very passionate, caring and hard working volunteers. They bring a smile and sense of positivity that lights up peoples day, particularly those who seek support at the opshop or foodbank. It is with people such as Theresa that the Society are able to connect and better serve the community.
Building Upon The Foundation
Over the last month, members of the Vinnies Youth Team have been connecting in with school groups across Auckland. These visits often include the exploration of a social issue through empathy tools. Students have found that it is no easy task to make a meal from the contents of a typical food parcel. Nor is it easy to sit with the statistics of those who are incarcerated or without a place to call home. As these students embark on the service component of their journey this year, they are hopeful that their new found tools will aid in connecting with those they serve.
Through Love We Heal
Building upon the relationships these last few months, a number of ministries have continued to flourish. These include services to those who are incarcerated, as well as those in care at the hospital. Each weekend, Vinnies and Vincentians come together to serve and build a sense of community. Each Sunday, a group of Vinnies Youth have the opportunity to visit those who reside within Mt Eden Prison. The group lead a Liturgy of the Word in up to two prison wings at a time, as well as some conversation and waita (songs).
Before Mass on Sunday, Vinnies Youth also have the opportunity to guide patients at Auckland Hospital to and from their rooms. Though the journey is short the conversations which take in the corridor provide a sense of positivity that is well receieved by all. The simple act of being able to attend the Mass is significant for those that go as they seek to recover and rehabilitate themselves.
Vinnies Youth Assisting in the Opshop
Students from colleges across Auckland have been visiting the Kingsland Vinnies Centre weekly. These provide a platform for youth to see firsthand where their donations go towards. Their key activities have included the sorting of clothing for the opshop, packing food into the foodbanks for families, as well as organising resources for school input sessions.
Making Meals Matter
Tasked with maintaining the wellbeing of families that come through the door, the Vinnies Centre in Otahuhu seek to provide a haven for those seeking assistance. Families come to the centre from across South Auckland, and so they rely on volunteers such as those from the local high schools to help prepare bulk meals. As an after school project, these young men and women gladly take to the kitchen to prepare and package the food so that families may be fed. The students thoroughly enjoy learning how to cook and bake these low cost nutritious meals.
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.