I think it was the third week of being in the SVP. I was waiting for Ian, who was going to keep an eye on me as a new member during my first visit to an elderly gentleman, Mr Mercer. As I waited, my original worries returned. Was this SVP thing really a good idea - visiting old people at 7.30pm on a Monday evening, and disturbing them at the time when they’d rather be watching Coronation Street or Eastenders? As I walked to Mr Mercer’s I remembered that on the two previous weeks, as we had been brought into the sitting room, the people we were visiting had respectfully and possibly reluctantly, switched off their TVs. We arrived, half an hour after our usual visiting time, rang the bell and waited. After a few minutes Mr Mercer, frail and visibly upset, opened the door. The sound of a television could be heard in the background. So I was correct in my worries, I thought. I must tell the others about this awkward visiting time. Then, to my surprise, Mr Mercer leaned his forehead against the wall of the hall and, with his shoulders shaking, he started to sob quietly. ‘Are you alright Mr Mercer?' I said. 'Yes, yes,' he replied, ‘I just thought that no-one was going to come to see me tonight’. Our visit may be the only contact someone has had with another person since the previous week. This is a moving testimony to how much it is appreciated, even if we feel that we aren’t doing very much at all.
The SVP in Birmingham was contacted regarding a local man, Jim, who had suffered a severe mental breakdown. Jim was too frightened to leave the house and found it difficult to meet people face to face. The local SVP Conference decided the best way to support Jim initially was via telephone and for six months an SVP member chatted to him on a weekly basis. Trust between Jim and the SVP grew until he was happy to accept home visits. Jim’s wife Lucy then spoke to the SVP about the difficulties faced by people with mental illness and their families. Many of their friends had drifted away from them because they found Jim’s illness so hard to deal with. The SVP Conference agreed to give a talk in the local community both about its work and about mental illness. Lucy and Jim have both expressed sincere thanks for the support given by the SVP and most importantly for the new friendships that they have developed.
Choose to forget
We came here during a war;
Soldiers killed our children,
I choose to forget,
I choose to forget.
It could have been anywhere we would go.
But my heart hoped England and
Freedom place, No guns or bullets.
I choose to forget,
I choose to forget.
In a lorry on a lonely road,
Heading for freedom place.
Written by an Asylum Seeker attending an SVP Support Centre
Carley has three children under the age of five. She was abused by her partner and last year plucked up the courage to leave him and bring up her children on her own. She was given a flat by the Council on one of the local housing estates. She had left most of her belongings behind when she moved away from the abusive relationship. Her doctor recommended she go to the SVP shop near the estate to buy new clothes for herself and her children. Over several visits to the shop she chatted with the staff and volunteers. When one of the volunteers heard about her situation she passed on the number of the local SVP furniture store. The SVP provided several items of furniture to make her flat a proper home for her family, and Carley still regularly visits the shop to pick up bits for herself or just to have a chat.
Tears in my eyes
I want to thank you for your generous help in helping to furnish my home following an all too long time in prison. I am most grateful for the help that the St Vincent de Paul Society has given me. I never thought I’d be saying so to anyone, but I really do not know what I would have done without you. Your support has given me a very real home from which I feel I am much more able to try to move forward with my life. The manner in which I have been helped was an example to anyone who might wonder what Christian kindness looks like in action. Even though I am an atheist, it was shiningly clear to me. I had become so unused to such generosity of spirit: it brought tears to my eyes. I am beginning to look forward rather than back and your help is a significant part of that shift. Thank you.
I wanted to thank you for another brilliant camp. The children enjoyed themselves and talk constantly about the different activities they did. Please thank all the people involved in the camp, no matter what role they played. Not one child will pass through your camp without being influenced by the kind of encouraging, motivating people you are. What you do in your camp is extremely important and contributes to a child’s life and their lasting memories. The children will never forget their experiences and they feel much more confident now joining in with their peers. Thank you for all your hard work. Leeds Learning Mentor
Dawn had attempted suicide on two occasions due to the stress and pressure of being in debt. She was referred to the SVP by a different financial advice service. The SVP debt Counsellor worked with Dawn and represented her in her debtor’s petition for bankruptcy. Since declaring bankruptcy Dawn has been released from the pressure of unmanageable debt and she is now focusing on overcoming the psychological problems which it had caused. She is currently being helped by the debt advisor to manage her finances and is receiving the support of the general counsellor through weekly sessions.
“I felt so ashamed about the debts I had accumulated: it was humiliating. The counsellor was really helpful and understanding - he did not judge me and really supported me.”
I’ve been living here on bail after being charged with burglary. It is my first experience of a hostel and I was wary of what to expect. Through keywork sessions I have been able to identify the significance of my actions. The trust and support which has been shown to me by the staff has helped lift my morale to a level where I feel I want to get on with my life in a more constructive way. I’d like to do some voluntary work and perhaps, with further training and qualifications, get a job on an outdoors activity scheme. The idea of Approved Premises, with one part supervision and internment and the second part being allowed to make a life, has benefited me. Steve, SVP Approved Premises
Through my work with SVP and my amazing experiences with Camp Vincent I have really found myself and learnt to be confident with who I am, for the first time really in my life I am finding it quite natural to smile all the time! I believe that the work that SVP is doing, not just for the community but for all its members, is so important and should be praised so much. I have learnt so much from these last two years. It has made me a better person. I honestly believe that Youth SVP has been a life changing experience for me, it’s given me a new outlook on life and has allowed me to meet some amazing people and personalities who I just have so much respect for. Kim