What is beneath the surface in the SVP?
A former President of the Society in the Pearse Street area of Dublin, provides some answers to the question
Scratch the surface of an SVP Conference today and you will find people who, unlike the vast majority of their fellow citizens, have sat in many a Traveller’s trailer, who count Muslim migrants among their friends or who go into jail to let prisoners know that they are not outcasts. In addition to these life-enhancing experiences, SVP members also have the satisfaction of lifting the weight of despair and worry from another’s shoulders, often by pointing them in the right direction and sometimes by simply giving them the means to buy food or pay a bill.
You can feel like Santa Claus sometimes, but other times decisions are hard: Whether to fulfil a dying woman’s wish to go to Lourdes – yes; whether to enable a mother to spend 500 euro on her daughter’s first communion dress, because she believes she should have as good as anyone else – no; whether to replace an elderly Traveller man’s caravan which was burned out – yes; whether to give vouchers to a mother who has surrendered her child benefit book to an illegal money-lender and who refuses to go to MABS – no. The acid test, especially where large amounts are concerned, is to ask whether our donors would approve of our decision.
Of course if you are in the business of giving away money you have to retain a healthy scepticism, as there are always people who will take advantage. Every Conference worries about making the mistake of giving to someone who does not really need help, but who has the hard neck, sense of entitlement or sheer dishonesty to seek it. We worry even more about the bigger mistake of missing out on people who may desperately need our help but who, through natural pride, unawareness or inability to cope, do not call on us. That is why we advertise our services locally and nationally and also maintain contacts with social workers, teachers, community welfare officers, MABS and others who are in a position to point people in our direction.