St. Vincent de Paul creating a just and caring society

St. Vincent de Paul (SVP) charity is a Christian voluntary organisation, working with people experiencing poverty and disadvantage. Inspired by its founder, Frederi Ozanam and their patron, Saint Vincent dePaul, the Society endeavour to create a more just and caring society.

In 1833 Fredric Ozanam was a young student in Sorbonne University, Paris, where, at that time, there was great poverty. Fredric, with a number of friends formed a Society to help the poor. The name of St. Vincent de Paul was chosen for the new Society. From the outset the Society favoured a practical, direct approach to dealing with poverty.

Frederic Ozanam laid down the instruction that SVP members must give of themselves, through their time, talents and resources to help the poor

St. Vincent de Paul was born in 1581, he dedicated his life to helping the poor.

The organisation spread throughout France, then Europe, and then into America. Now it is established in over 130 countries worldwide.

The SCP was founded in Ireland in 1844. It is the largest voluntary charitable organisation in Ireland. During its history it has helped people in need through a Famine, a Civil War, a War of Independence, two World Wars and several economic recessions. There are now over a thousand groups in Ireland.

The Society came to Ballina in the 1880’s. Bishop Naughton set up the SVP Society. Initially it was a men only group and they operated out of a small hut on Bridge Street. People dropped in to the centre after Mass on a Sunday to get food vouchers for their shopping. Women weren’t allowed to join SVP until 1962.

Saint Vincent de Paul Ballina’s branch is located at Ozanam House, Teeling Street, Ballina, and is managed by Ann Keane and Gemma O’Malley on a job sharing basis.

The SVP Centre Ballina has a home management room, tuition rooms, furniture centre, charity shop and full time office.

The resource centre caters for the needs of those they serve:

  • A fully equipped home management centre where cookery, nutrition and budgeting skills are taught to about 30 people weekly. This is “hands-on” training where each participant has to produce a meal from specified ingredients. One particular class is designed specifically for men and the objective is to get them out of house and maybe share their troubles while learning to cook nutritional meals for themselves.

This centre is also used to host the “Eat Wise Healthy Eating Initiative” summer camps for youth group, and independent living skills.

  • A computer room where volunteer tutors teach computer skills for beginners, as well as more advanced work such as ECDL.
  • Stress Management and Assertiveness courses – These are run on a regular basis each term by a qualified facilitator and are one of our most popular courses.
  • Nine volunteer teachers do extra tuition with pupils who need that extra bit of help. These include Burmese children whose families were relocated here under a U.N. programme. They also operate an adult eduction programme.
  • Meeting rooms which are available to community groups, free of charge, and are also used for sessions by volunteer trained career guidance and other counsellors, who see clients on SVP’s behalf.
  • Network meetings of service providers, in the caring sector, are organised there by SVP, on a quarterly basis. This prevents overlapping of services, provides knowledge of personnel in the various agencies and promotes a better “working together” ethos.

Food distribution

Saint Vincent dePaul are undertaking a big task at the moment, they are involved in a food distribution project as part of the FoodCloud initiative. They collect food every night from Tesco, and on certain days each week from Lidl, then once a week from a FoodCloud depot in Galway. They also get a van load of food in addition to this a number of times each year from an EU funded programme called FEAD.

SVP give out food every week from Monday to Friday and can give out up to 15 lots of food on any given day. Last year they gave out 2,794 lot of food.

To fund their work they have the two charity shops one they call Vincent’s Fashion – were they stock ladies, men’s and children’s clothes and shoes. The other shop is called Vincent’s Living, which stocks furniture, household and nursery items. In addition to this they do an annual church gate collection and a Christmas appeal.

The Vincent’s charity shops are a very important aspect of the service SVP provides. Not only do they provide people with new and lightly worn items at affordable prices, they also provide an income source for the Society, which is recycled directly back into the community.

The Vincent’s charity shops are managed by a small number of professionals, assisted by a large number of volunteers and by community employment trainees.

Local SVP Conferences can also provide people with Vincent’s gift tokens for clothing and furniture, which they can use in any of their shops to pick out what they need.

By donating your second-hand clothes and unwanted items to Vincent’s charity shops, not only will you be freeing up space in your home, you will also be making a difference to people in need.

Ballina’s SVP are very grateful for the huge support they receive from the local community.

Support to the community

Their main area of work is person to person contact with people who need help and assistance. When someone contacts them with a request for help, they can expect to receive a visit from two friendly SVP volunteers who are there to listen and see what help or information they can offer.

Volunteers engage with those who request their help to ensure they fully understand the issues they are facing, which enables them to provide the best support possible. They may be able to offer some practical or financial assistance towards day-to-day essentials, or they may offer information about other relevant services.

SVP assistance is offered in a spirit of support and friendship by volunteers from all walks of life and all of their visits are dealt with in a completely confidential and non-judgemental manner.

SVP have 70 shop volunteers and participants from SICAP CE and TÚS schemes.

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Sponsered by The Social Inclusion and Community Activation Programme (SICAP) 2018-2022 is funded by the Irish Government and co-funded by the European Social Fund and includes a special allocation under the Youth Employment Initiative.