When I took up my new role as the national president, I never thought that my vision, plans, and hopes for the organisation during my term would be so quickly side-lined. The pandemic had other plans for me and the Society and the world in general. The past sixteen months have been a time that I know for sure most of us wish to forget.
The litany of difficulties kept growing as 2020 went on. Apart from the deaths and illness from the virus, there was a huge lack of contact with loved ones for long periods, with many people feeling lonely and isolated, thousands more unemployed, the closure of hundreds of family businesses, families struggling with home schooling and more people struggling to pay bills.
As an organisation, the SVP was not immune to the effects and restrictions introduced due to the pandemic. When Covid-19 hit the country, the safety of our members and the people we visit had to be our priority. Consequently, we followed Government guidelines and suspended home visitations throughout the country and arranged support in other ways.
As a result, help was provided through telephone and online contact with food, vouchers or other needs delivered by post or dropped off by those volunteers who were in a position to do so.
You can imagine this was a major decision as home visitations is the core element of the Society’s work.
Quality visitation is paramount – the key objective of the Society is to be out there among people, not just with material help, but with friendship, respect, love and admiration. Our visits – listening – sharing – supporting (financially and with advice) are the priceless Vincentian gifts we offer on our visitation.
Also, as a result of Covid-19, our finances have been stretched. The enforced closure of our 234 Vincent’s shops for several months and the cessation of church gate collections created great difficulty for the Society.
One positive of the past year and a half has been the sense of community that has been shown time and time again, organisations coming together, isolated people and older neighbours being supported by their neighbours. We heard numerous stories of such generosity, and I am sure those of you who watched our “Beyond Covid” video would have witnessed the amazing work that our volunteers and staff around the country continued to do during extremely difficult and emotional times.
We are now moving towards the light, and I hope that such generosity of spirit may long continue. It is vital within the Society that we look after each other as well as those we support. It is essential that we are aware of each other’s needs as we work for the common good.
Last December, I wrote to all our members, volunteers and staff to thank you on behalf of myself and the National Management Council for what you have done for the Society during 2020 under very difficult circumstances.
I also said at the time that members and volunteers who took a step back to ensure the health and safety of themselves and those they would have been supporting directly are to be commended for taking what was a brave decision. Those sentiments are still alive with me and deserve repeating.
If you are reading this as a member who took that step back last year to care for a loved one, we hope to see you resume an active role in the Society in the coming months as we move towards and return to a more stable situation.
While the loss of visitation opportunities left a significant gap in the quality of the service we could provide, we look forward to the time we can resume safely.
The roll-out of vaccinations is speeding up as I write and with it brings renewed hope that what we consider normal living returns and we can as SVP members, volunteers and staff resume with renewed vigour and commitment to supporting those who need our help.
For myself, the time has come for me to renew my plans, hopes and vision for the organisation. So in the very near future, I look forward to visiting in person, each region and meeting members, volunteers and staff and view the wonderful projects we have around the country.