This term seven schools in Westminster diocese took part in an outreach project in partnership with the St Vincent de Paul Society (SVP) and Caritas Westminster. They packed winter essentials such as gloves, hats and socks creating hundreds of Vinnie packs which can be handed out to people who are homeless and struggling this winter.
Year six pupils at St Bernadette’s in Kenton made 120 Vinnie Packs, which come complete with toothbrushes, toothpaste and a small magazine full of useful information and contacts. They found the activity both enjoyable and thought-provoking, as Thomas said: “My first impression was that it was fun but then I realised it was all about being thoughtful and doing a good deed. It felt as if God gave me a message, almost as if he gave me an empty mind and made me think about all these people suffering so then I really thought about what I was doing.”
Fraser commented: “Packing Vinnie Packs was a great experience which I’m very thankful for. It made me realise how grateful I should be for everything I get. Also, when I packed Vinnie Packs it put a smile on my face as I knew someone else would be smiling when the receive this gift.”
Each child wrote a short message to put inside the Vinnie pack – a simple Christmas greeting or a wish that the pack will help them stay warm – enough to make a hand-out into a personal gift, assuring the person receiving it that someone cares, and reminding the children of the real people they are helping by this activity.
Pupils from Newman Catholic College and from St Joseph’s Primary school in Wembley, took a trip out of school to make their Vinnie packs in-situ at SEIDs hub, Wembley. This is the base of SEIDs but also provides storage space for the SVP, who manage the Vinnie Pack project and will distribute the packs to various homeless shelters and outreach projects.
Some schools, however, saw to the handover of the packs themselves to their own local project. This short video shows Sinead Loughney, RE teacher from Cardinal Pole school handing Vinnie Packs to Aina Omo-Bare, Caritas Rep at St Monica’s in Hoxton, for distributing through the parish food shelter.
The packs from Our Lady’s in Hitchin will be distributed through Feed Up Warm Up, a homeless project connected with the Catholic Parish there.
The other schools which took part were St Mary of the Angels, Bayswater and St Bernadette’s in Uxbridge.
In total around 900 Vinnie packs were made by these school children – each containing just a few essential items to keep someone warm and a lot of love.
In the words of Reyen from Kenton, “When we helped pack the Vinnie Packs for the homeless and those in solitude, I felt like I was changing someone’s life. We knew these packs were small but they may have meant the world to one person. Just like St Teresa said, “Small things make a BIG difference.” We have everything we need; some have almost nothing.”
If you want to help pack Vinnie Packs next Autumn, like and follow this Facebook Page.