by Elke Springett
Marking the end of the annual Volunteers Week, which aims to celebrate the fantastic contribution volunteers make to our communities, the Caritas Westminster’s Volunteer Fair brought together a range of charities and social action projects from across the diocese with people looking to volunteer.
‘It was such a well-planned and structured event and a great balance between the great presentations and time for people to mingle. As a result, we had two people start with us, visiting Irish seniors, so a big thank you!’ Comments like these from the Irish Chaplaincy’s Paul Raymond captured the spirit on 8th June.
There was a real buzz in St Aloysius’ church hall with bunting and free cakes supplied by the Felix Project, and children’s activities at Syria Summer Camp’s colourful stall all adding to the happy atmosphere. For those who want to help the homeless, the hungry, the sick or prisoners, or to make a difference to the lives of children, the elderly or refugees, there was no lack of opportunity in the room. ‘It was great getting information from people directly involved’ enthused a visitor at the end.
Other opportunities which were showcased included volunteering for the diocesan pilgrimage to Lourdes, becoming a foundation governor for Catholic schools, a Safeguarding Representative, or a fundraiser or volunteer at Westminster Cathedral.
Rounding off the event were informative talks and inspirational testimonies illustrating how volunteering can be a great way to live out our faith. After all, as Christians we are called to ‘serve one another in love’ (Gal 5:13) and it seems most people agree: ‘It’s part of my religious belief to help people’ was selected by almost 1 in 6 volunteers who took the Community Life Survey
Speakers from the SVP, the Irish Chaplaincy, and Caritas Westminster emphasised the impact beneficiaries of their services receive which would be impossible to provide without volunteers. The St Vincent de Paul Society provided 1,500 children with a holiday in England and Wales at their annual summer camps and will hand out Vinnie Packs containing a warm hat, socks, gloves and toiletries to the homeless during winter. Volunteers joining the new Caritas Food Collective project will help fight food poverty in our diocese by expanding direct relief, skills training
The engaging talk by SPEC’s volunteer missionary, Ariana Strmota, left one listener ‘wishing I could be involved in SPEC, but I’m past the age for it now! I may consider volunteering for the Food Bank.’
Thank you to all who contributed to the success of the day: the stallholders (including Chain of Hope, Copenhagen Street Foodbank, Housing Justice, Hope for Southall Street Homeless, Irish Chaplaincy, Mary’s Meals, Prison Advice and Care Trust, Religious of Mary Immaculate, St John’s Ambulance and The Felix Project) and the speakers (Siobhan Garibaldi, Simon Matthews, Joe Myrtetus, Ariana Strmota and Jackie Tominey). Special thanks go out to the visitors and, of course, the volunteers who make such a great difference in the lives of others.
to explore a whole range of volunteering opportunities. Or join us on 25th September at a free session titled ‘Volunteering in the Community: Getting Started’. To reserve a space, contact caritaswestminster@ rcdow.org.uk or search for the title on Eventbrite.