WelCom October 2021
The need for assistance from the Society of St Vincent de Paul escalated rapidly during the latest Covid-19 lockdown, especially in Auckland under lockdown Level 4.
St Vincent de Paul Auckland General Manager Del Soti says numbers seeking food packages catapulted from a weekly average of 900 to 2000 during the first weeks of lockdown.
Vinnies in Auckland also support young Aucklanders in the form of a ‘daily virtual chat’ to help them get through lockdown, says Vinnies worker Lupesina Koro.
‘It’s a really heavy time, because a lot of students are struggling with mental health in lockdown,’ says Lupesina. They feel that teachers think that during lockdown they have all the time in the world to study, ‘but for a lot of our students they also have an obligation to their families – to look after siblings, do the feaus [chores], you know, and that can be overwhelming.’
‘We’re catering to about 700 to 800 students each week,’ says youth co-ordinator Reuben To’a. ‘We want them to feel supported and connected, knowing that just because they’re not in our space, they are still a part of us.’
It’s a lot to take on for a small team of staff and volunteers. The determination of these young volunteers to look after their community never fades, says Del Soti.
‘You see these girls. They’ve barely slept, and they’re not part of our staff, but they’re here at the crack of dawn, and they leave when it’s dark, you know. And they’re still going. We are really proud of them and moved by just who they are.’
The need for assistance from St Vincent de Paul has greatly increased in other parts of the country as well.
In New Plymouth Vincentian Gabrielle Carman reports that within days of the sudden lockdown, requests for food parcels ramped up.
‘We work hand-in-glove with our local foodbank. Thus, there have been numerous trips to the foodbank to pick up and deliver parcels for families who have asked for our help.
In the first lockdown, Civil Defence was helping with the delivery of food parcels. Not so this time around. Masked and contactless delivery by St Vincent de Paul volunteers has been standard, and we have seen some new clients this time around.’
As soon as the lockdown level went down, the Vinnies were back on the job, ‘serving the meals in take away boxes, remaining carefully distanced and masked up as we hand out hot boxed meals from the kitchen door,’ says Gabrielle.
The New Plymouth Vinnies also run a Whare Kai programme, which involves weekly cooking sessions in a church hall kitchen, ‘where we provide the ingredients and recipes, then cook healthy meals alongside the Mums of young families. During lockdown the meal ingredients and the recipes were dropped off at people’s homes every week, a bit like My Food Bag – only better!’ says Gabrielle.
In Napier, the St Vincent de Paul St Patrick’s Conference team and the Sacred Heart School Young Vinnies provided food through lockdown to many families from the local Catholic school communities. Young Vinnies, working alongside Vinnies youth workers Paola Minehan and Victoria Vo, packed and delivered the parcels. There was a higher demand for food this lockdown compared with the previous one.