Connecting Families with our Neighbours in Need

Both Parents and Teachers from St Patrick’s Catholic Primary School, Sutherland long wanted to put their faith in action by helping those in need. They had worked in partnership with the local St Vincent de Paul (SVdP) Conference with the Christmas and Winter Appeals, as well as assisted with Brekky Van and Night Patrol on a casual basis. However, they wanted to do more.

From this came the vision of a ‘Sub-Conference’ to support the local Sutherland SVdP Conference. That vision is now a reality. Mouna Roche, Family Educator at St Patrick’s Sutherland is overwhelmed by the interest and support in the Sub Conference model. Mouna has coordinated Mini Vinnies for many years in her role as Family Educator and from early on saw the potential that the Mini Vinnies members had in influencing social outreach through the involvement of the parent community.

“After months of planning and discussion as to the best model to suit our parent and teacher community, Chris Watson and I have collaborated to form a Sutherland Sub-Conference. We are mentored by Chris and the elders of the Sutherland Conference. During my time at St Patrick’s we have worked collaboratively with Chris Watson and the Sutherland Conference building a strong link between our Parish and School. The establishment of the Sub Conference is the next step in this relationship. The St Vincent de Paul Society is very interested in this model and is looking to take it state wide.

20160831-stpats-img2-lgeAfter promoting the concept among our community, and with an outstanding parent turn out to help with Christmas Hamper deliveries, the Sub-Conference began in Term One of this year. The group has grown to 17 members and meets each month, in the evening. This was most convenient option for members who all work and needed at time to fit in with work and family life. The group is also exploring the use of ‘Whats App’ in order to connect the group instantly when client referrals are made to Chris. In planning the Sub-Conference it was decided very early on, that opportunities needed to be easily accessible to members with meetings less frequent than a regular conference, in order for members to be available for ‘hands-on’ outreach instead.

The Sub Conference’s main outreach will be local home visitation, firstly being mentored by members of the Sutherland Conference and then working in pairs independently. Sub-Conference members are also involved in other SVdP outreach in the local area, including working at the local SVdP Sutherland Regional Office where they have received training in the provision of electricity, food and clothing vouchers.

The mantra of the group has been “Let’s get Local!” and is giving an opportunity to busy parents and teachers to offer a ‘hand up’ to those in need. When parent Maureen McDowell was asked, “How does a mother of three find the time to get involved with Vinnies?” Her response was, “How can I not find the time to do this?”