The International Youth committee of the Council General International is beginning a series of posts to describe a whole series of initiatives taken by Vincentian Youth around the world in response to the question: What is SSVP Youth doing to counter the effects of Covid-19?
This is our first posting, starting with the initiative taken by the Youth commission of the Central Council of San Lucas, from the Metropolitan Council of Belo Horizonte, which belongs to the National Council of Brazil, and is represented by Müller Coelho de Macedo, a member and current coordinator for this Youth commission.
- Initiative: Vincentian action for homeless people
- Target group: Rough sleepers
- Responsible: Youth commission of the Central Council of San Lucas, Brazil
Let me tell you about how this initiative started, and what happened when the Covid-19 pandemic arrived:
The Youth Commission of the Central Council of San Lucas, aware of the situation of homeless people in the city of Belo Horizonte, Brazil, and wishing to promote the strengthening and reinvigoration of the Vincentian charism, joined in with the idea from the youth conference of San Juan Pablo II, and developed the action known as “Vincentinar”.
As Müller Coelho, the youth commission coordinator, says, since they could not immediately relieve “our lords and masters” living on the streets, they tried to do their best to soften the impact of social neglect.
For these young people, the “Vincentinar” plan adds action to the Vincentian charism. There is something they can do, and they do it. They started by delivering 70 hot meals to people living on the streets. Even before the pandemic, they managed to provide 200 meals a month.
Müller Coelho tells us that he sees this action as a way of inviting more young people to join the conferences, because so many people have been inspired by the attitude of the Vincentians, and want to see how we work close at hand.
As well as involving the young people in the work of the Central Council, Müller has help from local Vincentians and other branches of the Vincentian Family to prepare the meals. In fact, the food is cooked in the homes of the members and volunteers, and donations come from many people helping with collections made in the neighbourhood and in churches.
When the pandemic arrived, the young people were faced with an even greater challenge: to keep up the work while respecting health and safety rules and social isolation, as well as the instructions from the Vincentian officers.
Many people might have seen this as a reason to suspend the work, but for these young people it was another boost to making our Charism real. They decided to continue, because they knew that many more people needed these meals and that solidarity would overcome the pandemic.
Due to Covid-19 outbreak, the work is now happening once a week instead of once a month, so they are doing even more, up from 200 meals to 550 a month. This involves 50 Vincentian members, most of them young.
Bearing in mind the instructions from public health bodies and the guidance of their Vincentian leaders, the young people go out into the city with protective masks, gloves and sanitizer, to deliver hot meals, thus reducing the impact of the pandemic on the most vulnerable people.
The Youth Commission currently has 5 young members, each of whom has a job to do. The committee is responsible for incorporating the work of the youth Conferences in their Council.
“Charity is the Samaritan who pours oil onto the wounds of the person attacked on the road”. The young Vincentian meets God in the person of the poor, with practical action and guided by Saint Vincent de Paul, who asks us to “love God with the sweat of our brow and the strength of our arms”. With such strong conviction, the Youth Commission of the Central Council of San Lucas shares charity and hope, and responds in effective, practical ways to the effects of the pandemic.