On Thursday 14th on November, 75 Children from Catholic and Jewish schools gathered for a day of interfaith encounter and charity. The students worked together in the parish hall of Sacred Heart and Mary Immaculate parish in Mill Hill to assemble 400 ‘Vinnie Packs’.
The day celebrated the twin occasions of Mitzvah Day and World Day of the Poor, which both fell on Sunday 17th of November. Mitzvah Day is a day in the Jewish Calendar set aside for good works, known as ‘Mitzvahs’.
The event was the second time Caritas Westminster has worked with the Jewish Mitzvah Day organisation, but the first time so many children from the two religions had gathered together in one place.
Pupils from St Joseph’s Hendon, St Anthony’s Schools for Girls, Bishop Challoner,
Cardinal Pole, St Albert the Great, Pope Paul Catholic Primary School worked alongside those from three Jewish schools, Jewish Free School, Sacks Morasha and Etz Chaim.
Vinnie Packs are an initiative of the Society of St Vincent de Paul (SVP). The packs contain items such as toothbrushes, woolly hats and socks which are packed by volunteers and given to rough sleepers and others who need them across the UK.
After introductions, the day began with children from different schools discussing what items should be put into “Vinnie Packs” for homeless people in different countries and climates. They then listened to a very engaging talk by Siobhan Garibaldi from the SVP and this got the children thinking about the needs of people who are rough sleeping, and fired them up to start packing the Vinnie Packs. She explained in detail the list of items that were to go into the packs.
Children then divided into those preparing the items (unpacking multi-packs and removing packaging) and those packing the items, and worked hard, remaining focussed on their task. For an added personal touch, the students, who packed a total of 400 Vinnie packs in just a few hours, also added short notes for the recipients. Some examples of the notes are:
“Dear receiver, this pack is complete with lots of stuff to keep you warm. I hope that you wake up feeling refreshed and with many people around you. Let the angels help you. – A person who cares.”
“Dear reader, I hope this kit and letter brightens your day! Today has been the best day ever for you and me.
Speak out, stay safe and good luck!”
The notes reflect a high level of understanding and solidarity felt by the children who attended the event – which surely reflects the excellent social teaching happening at both Catholic and Jewish schools.
Some of the Vinnie Packs from this Mitzvah Day will be distributed at the North London Synagogue Asylum Seeker Drop-In, and the rest will be used by the SVP in their projects around the country.
The day was jointly coordinated by Caritas Westminster, Mitzvah Day and the Society of St Vincent de Paul.
In attendance were Lady Daniella Pears, the Interfaith Coordinator for Mitzvah Day, its interfaith Advisor, Rabbi Jeff Berger, as well as the Parish Priest of Mill Hill, Fr Eugene Curran CM and Sister Anthony O’Rourke of Saint Joseph’s Convent.
Most of the children expressed a desire to attend a similar day again, and the only complaint was that they run out of items for the Vinnie Packs as they would have loved to have packed even more! There is an amazing desire among these young people to help those less fortunate and they showed a great interest in learning more about the people who might receive the Vinnie Packs they made.