The SSVP in England and Wales has been inundated with calls from people who want to help those who may be self-isolating or who may be facing financial hardship, while others are offering their assistance to help homeless people who they fear may become forgotten.
“Of course, anybody can help their self-isolating neighbours by offering to do shopping for them or share an online delivery, but many people recognise that providing help in a co-ordinated way is best done through an organisation like the SSVP,” says National President, Helen O’Shea.
As well as ordinary members of the public offering their time, retired SSVP members have been asking to re-join their local groups. Although they may not be mobile enough to get out and about helping people, they can still telephone or write letters to other isolated people.
Due to the current health crisis, approaches have quickly been adapted in response to social distancing:
- Making befriending phone calls to isolated older people
- Arranging for essential deliveries to people in need
- Picking up prescriptions and shopping for people
- Helping parents who now find their children permanently home, by providing craft materials, colouring books, etc.
- Getting their children to make cards to send to those in isolation
- Collecting food for local food banks who may have been suffering severe shortages
- Distributing food and SSVP Vinnie Packs (kits with cold weather items including toiletries, hat, gloves, socks and a thermal blanket) to rough sleepers on the streets
“When the SSVP began in Paris in 1833 the founder members had to contend with cholera and other diseases as well as poverty and hunger,” Helen O’Shea points out. “It’s a sad irony that nearly 200 years later – two centuries in which the SSVP has spread around the world – here we are, still dealing with the effects of sickness, poverty and hunger.”