We may be forced to change how we interact with others, but loving and serving are not locked down. Our projects and services are under great pressure, but the work continues. Here are just some of the highlights of how Caritas Westminster is responding to the latest Coronavirus restrictions.
We support the Catholic Church in its call for people to receive the Covid-19 vaccine when offered it.
You can watch a message from Fr Albert Ofere, a Nigerian and parish priest in Wembley Park
The work of the Caritas Food Collective has not stopped since last March, but now we are hearing of even more people who are finding it hard to feed themselves and their children. Reduced income due to Furlough, or worse, redundancy, has pushed struggling families over the edge.
Caritas Food Collective
Since the beginning of the pandemic we have distributed nearly £175,000 in supermarket vouchers to 124 parishes and schools. This has been a lifeline for over 6,000 people from around 1800 households. These vouchers have been generously funded by the St John Southworth Fund, the Cardinal’s Lenten Appeal, and the Albert Gubay Foundation. We have also increased our support for food banks and other food distribution projects, including Feed Up Warm Up in Hitchin, and many schools who are at the front-line and often the first to know when a family is having difficulties.
We work with food re-distribution charities the Felix Project and FareShare and have helped redistribute donations of food across the diocese.
If your parish or school has identified a local need for food provision, please discuss with Anna Gavurin how we can best support you.
If you want to take the next step with your emergency food project , and support people out of poverty and towards resilience, join our Road to Resilience Programme.
Caritas Bakhita House
Having had a Covid outbreak at the beginning of the year, all at Bakhita House are grateful that no one was seriously ill, and they are now able to leave their rooms and begin therapies again. Lockdown for someone who has been abused and known little freedom in their life could be a serious setback for recovery, but the bonds that have grown between the women in the past year have provided some resilience.
Caritas Deaf Service
The Deaf Service is carrying on with its online Masses and other online prayer and bible study opportunities as we continue into this 3rd lockdown. As most of the Deaf Service events are usually held in shared facilities and people travel from across the Diocese to attend, face to face opportunities for the meeting the Deaf Community have been very limited in the past 10 months even when things were open.
We are continuing to support the Deaf Community remotely through video calling, SMS messages and the post. A monthly newsletter is sent out and individual support for Deaf people continues tailored to each person’s situation.
For a community that rely on visual communication, the opening up of society as the situation improves cannot come quickly enough. If you are interesting in following the online signed Masses you can catch up with the work of the Deaf Service on Facebook
SEIDS runs two training and mentoring programmes for budding entrepreneurs and business owners – both are continuing online. Both are closed for new participants, but if you are interested in taking part in the future please register your email address at www.seids.org.uk.
Our office space in Wembley, with meeting rooms you can hire by the hour and desks you can rent by the day, or more long-term, are closed at the moment to the general public due to current lockdown restrictions. If you wish to be notified when we are open or you have office requirements, please email us.
SEIDS also has a property services company that provides paid training to people who have settled in the UK as a refugee or an asylum seeker. They offer services such as painting and decorating, maintenance and refurbishments, which is continuing as long as this kind of work is allowed. If you work with people who are in need of decent and dignified work in the building services industry, please reach out to us with more details of how we can help you.
Volunteering in a time of Coronavirus
It is allowable, under the rules of lockdown, to leave your house for the purpose of volunteering, and all the projects we support are incredibly grateful to the number of people who do. In fact, it is a great thing to do if you are furloughed and can be a great way of meeting people (socially distanced) and feeling less isolated. Whilst some volunteering needs to be hands-on many charities are now more set-up for remote volunteering, which many prefer either because they feel safer or because it’s easier to fit in because it involves no travel. This is a good time to try volunteering for an organisation that may be at other times too far away.
You can use the Caritas Volunteer Service website to find opportunities to volunteer near to you, or better still, come along to the online volunteer fair on 10 February and meet people from charities who are looking for volunteers.
If you are involved with a project which is looking for volunteers contact us to see how we can help.
The Caritas Development Team
Our Development Workers are still all available to support any needs in parish projects, community outreach, or schools. We are all working from home so it is best to email. If you are not sure who the Development worker for your area is, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
In troubled times it can be reassuring to have someone to turn to for assistance. Our crisis grants can provide a safety net to people who find themselves unexpectedly in need.
At the start of the pandemic we also established Covid emergency grants for social action projects which find themselves in greater demand than before.
And, should the need arise, we can provide funds to cover funeral expenses.