by Mary Karayel, on behalf of the Caritas Ambassadors
When they began working with us Caritas stressed the importance of volunteering as grounded in the Catholic social teaching of St John where he called people of faith to ‘not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth’ (1 John 3:18). This is something all Catholics will understand from the command to love our neighbours in the way that God loves us. However, volunteering to a lot of people can seem like an immense task, especially when we feel busy all of the time. As a Year 13 student, I am trying to balance my preparation for exams with time for extracurricular activities and seeing my friends before we go to university. So how can I start to put my faith into action the way God intended? Our Core RE Programme’s Servite Community Service provides students with the possibility of making real those Gospel values through opportunities to serve the needs of others in our local community. Caritas is one of the Servite Community Service opportunities made available as part of this course.
St Therese’s philosophy is one which states that faith in action can come through the smallest acts of kindness: ‘miss no single opportunity of making some small sacrifice, here by a smiling look, there by a kindly word; always doing the smallest right and doing it all for love’. This is such a poignant idea that I think everybody could adopt; individuals can make a difference.
When we first met our Caritas Development Worker, they really wanted to ensure that our work with them took our individual interests and hobbies into account. One area we were all particularly interested in was baking, so we baked cupcakes for the Hackney Winter Night Shelter.
We had so much fun doing this not only because it allowed us to indulge a hobby but more importantly because we were able to provide treats for those attending the shelter later on that night. It meant a great deal to us particularly as homelessness is such a massive issue right now. It felt amazing to know how well they were received and that the attendees were really touched by the realisation that people were thinking of them in their community.
Our Sixth Form Core RE Community Service has provided us with opportunities across generations, both children and the elderly. On one occasion, we visited the Friends of Woodberry Down, a group who provide a space for the elderly in Hackney to exercise, play games and socialise with each other, to tackle social isolation of elderly people. Our school aids their work by having students visit the centre to chat with residents and visitors. When we visited the Friends, I was touched at how happy they were to see us. Immediately we were engrossed in the chat, games, and laughter, so much so that I did not want to leave (especially as we were mid-way through a game!). Spending just one hour with the group at Woodberry Down conveyed to me how important friendship and communication is, perhaps something I take for granted in the digital age we are living in. It was lovely to chat with each of the Friends I sat with, just talking about my week at school, playing a board game with them or talking about their life story.
Putting my faith into action through my school’s promotion of Marian values and with Caritas (in Core RE sessions) has been both rewarding and enlightening for me. I have learned that serving others does not always need to be time consuming or tiresome, as I would have initially thought. The children and elderly people I have spoken to and worked with over the last two years have all been lovely, lively and entertaining people with their own stories to tell. No two experiences have been the same and now particularly through working with Caritas I feel as though I have put my faith into action.