Mini Vinnies are young members of the St Vincent de Paul Society, which has sought since its very beginning to engage young people with the idea of charity. Following on from work started in Australia, groups of Mini Vinnies are now developing across England and Wales. The motto of the Mini Vinnies is to “See, Think and Do”. The groups of young people meet regularly, and have their own special pledge, prayer, and badge which they are encouraged to wear to events in the Diocese.
Our Mini Vinnies were asked to feature in the SVP National Magazine and we were very proud so share the work that we had been doing over the year.
We have a group of 14 Mini Vinnies from Years 4, 5 and 6. Our new Mini Vinnies made an excellent start to the year which begin with their commissioning ceremony at assembly. Each Mini Vinnie made the pledge:
“As a member of Mini Vinnies, I promise to make a difference in my world by:
- Caring for, respecting and loving myself.
- Strengthening my friendship with Jesus by talking to him each day and talking to others about him.
- Caring for others in my school and community by being a friend to those who are alone, in need or in trouble.
- Making my family happy by my help, respect and showing kindness and consideration.
- Caring for and enjoying God’s world.
- Treating others the way I would like them to treat me.”
We talked about the way in which the SVP carries out all of the works of mercy that we learned so much about during Pope Francis’ Year of Mercy last year. Once commissioned, our Mini Vinnies were very keen to get to work carrying out these actsof mercy in our local community. They began by bringing in from home, and collecting food from others in school for our Harvest Festival. We collected lots of non-perishable items, which we packed into crates and brought to the St Vincent’s Centre in Leeds on our minibus.
During our visit to the St Vincent’s Centre, we learned about the range of different help available to people there. For example, the SVP offer free lessons in English as a Foreign Language, they offer counselling services, free debt advice, a non-profit making café, art classes, ICT classes and preparation for job interviews. They even have a ‘working wardrobe’, where they can give people suitable clothes to wear to a job interview, to help them get into employment and support themselves. We met some of the volunteers, and asked lots of interesting questions about their day-to-day work there. We helped to sort and put away our Harvest Festival donations into their stock cupboard. We saw picking lists of items that would go in an emergency food parcel for one person, two people, right up to a large family who are in great need.
In November, we talked about our Catholic tradition of praying for the dead. We felt very proud and responsible to represent our school and our parish at the Wetherby Remembrance Day Service on Sunday 12 November. Kyle, our president, laid a poppy wreath at the Cenotaph to remember all of those who have died in conflict. Nine of our Mini Vinnies braved the cold to complete the parade without coats so that everyone could see we belong to the St Joseph’s community. After this, we met in our church with Mrs Salomon who kindly lead us through a decade of the rosary. We talked about the repetitive nature of this prayer and how that can be comforting to us. Because we are so used to saying these prayers, we can use this time to reflect upon the mysteries of the rosary. Each Mini Vinnie received a rosary prayer card so they can continue this prayer at home.
Our Mini Vinnies are very much looking forward to helping out at the Foundation Stage Crib Service where they will be helping to welcome families as they arrive, and serving refreshments afterwards in the church hall. They will be taking a collection for the SVP which will be used to help those less fortunate manage over this difficult time of year when many are forced to choose between turning on their heating or buying enough food to eat.
The final figure raised for the SVP from the collection plus bun sales was £205.34. Thank you to all of the families who supported this great cause!
The Mini Vinnies have continued to be busy with events this summer term. On Thursday 21st June, they attended the parish ‘Friendship Group’, which takes place on the third Thursday of each month. It’s a great way for elderly people to meet up, listen to an interesting talk, then enjoy tea and cake. Instead of giving a talk, the Mini Vinnies led a game of Bingo and sang the school song. They then broke off into smaller groups and played draughts, chess, snakes and ladders, and cards. Nathan really entertained his table teaching card tricks, and Francois enjoyed playing draughts with his new 92 year old friend!
The children helped to draw the raffle and give out prizes, whilst the kettle boiled. After that they helped to serve-and to tuck into-cups of tea with cakes and scones. They made light work of clearing the tables, with several assisting Mrs Grafton with the washing up!
They were thanked for their attendance, and invited to return in November. The Friendship Club also made a very generous donation to the SVP as a thank you for everything the Mini Vinnies provided. They are hoping we will return and visit the Friendship Club again next term.
The Back Pack Project
The Work of Our Previous Mini Vinnies
When Mrs Gray asked our Mini Vinnies to help with the Foundation Stage Crib Service, they were only too happy to help. Several gave up their break and lunchtime in order to help prepare the leaflets and the little bags of hay for the children. All of them came to help greet Foundation Stage pupils and their families in Church, give out the leaflets and show people to their seats. They were a wonderful help in preparing and serving the refreshments afterwards in the Church hall, even helping to wash up the plates. Connie deserves a special mention for almost single handedly putting out about 80 chairs in the hall! In recognition of these fine efforts, the Mini Vinnies took a retiring collection for the SVP, raising over £100.
Our final task of the year came after a call for help from the Franciscan Sisters of the Renewal in Leeds. They asked our Mini Vinnies to help them to support some families in their Corpus Christi parish, who were in need of food parcels to see them over Christmas. Many of our families donated dry and tinned goods. Mrs Tate agreed with Miss Milivojevic to spend some of the money collected at the Crib Service to create food hampers for families in our community who are in need. Mrs Tate and Mrs Lowe took the Mini Vinnies shopping! It became apparent that some of our Mini Vinnies are more savvy shoppers than others! Ryan excelled himself at sniffing out the bargains on offer in Morrisons, and Mrs Lowe coerced the store to donate several boxes of mince pies to our cause. We were able to deliver these to the sisters at their Live Nativity service so that the families received the goods in time for Christmas. We also collected toys and other Christmas presents for the SVP which were taken to the St Vincent’s Centre, York Road.
We are looking forward to more events next term. If anybody has any more good ideas for our Mini Vinnies please contact Mrs Tate.
Supporting Mary’s Meals
Our Mini Vinnies have been working very hard this term for two very important causes: Mary’s Meals and the Community of the Franciscan Sisters of the Renewal in Leeds. Our focus for the term was going to be Mary’s Meals alone, but when Sister Faustina got in touch to ask for our Mini Vinnies’ help, we felt we could not refuse!
The CFR Sisters live in Osmondthorpe, Leeds. They try to reach out and help their neighbours, many of whom are in need of such basic things as food. The Sisters make up food parcels for many families, particularly over Easter and Christmas. The Sisters seek to help those in need, regardless of religious background, so some of the people they help are Catholics but many are not. They asked us to provide non perishable food items to be distributed amongst their neighbours. Our Mini Vinnies donated many items themselves, but they also got to school early for a whole week and set up a table collecting these food donations, which they then helped to load into Mrs Tate’s car to be delivered to the Sisters in time for Easter.
In addition to this good work, the Mini Vinnies have been learning all about another charity called Mary’s Meals. Founded in Scotland by Magnus MacFarlane Barrow, Mary’s Meals is now a multinational charity which works in 14 of the world’s poorest countries to provide a meal in a place of learning for children. The charity was founded and inspired by Magnus’ encounter with a 14 year old boy called Edward, as he sat with his dying mother and 5 brothers and sisters in Malawi. Magnus asked Edward what his hopes were for the future and he replied “I would like to have enough food to eat, and I would like to go to school one day”. Magnus fully embraced the Mini Vinnie motto of ‘See, think and do’, as he went on to create a model which could then be replicated in many schools around the world. He assembled a group of local volunteers to arrive each day at the school, collect wood, light fires and cook basic meals mainly of porridge or rice to be given for free to all children who attend the school. Because the charity relies on over 200,000 volunteers, it keeps costs down to a minimum, and so can feed a child in the developing world for just £13.90 for a whole school year!
Our Mini Vinnies were very impressed by the way the charity works, and by what they are ultimately trying to achieve by their belief that food + school = hope for children. A free school meal will enable their families to let them attend school rather than work in the fields. An education gives them the best chance to break the cycle of poverty into which they have been born.
Our Mini Vinnies delivered an assembly on Mary’s Meals in order to educate their classmates and their teachers about how the charity works and what it hopes to achieve. They decided they would like to do a fundraising Sponsored Walk in empathy with the many children who walk for miles barefoot in order to receive a Mary’s Meal at school. They walked to school from Spofforth, along the old railway line, arriving at school just in time for the start of their lessons. Each Mini Vinnie was set a target of raising £13.90. Many of our children smashed this target and in total their sponsored walk raised £401.60. Well done to all involved and the Mini Vinnies would like to thank all those who supported their efforts and donated throughout the spring term!
Here are some of us on the sponsored walk before school!
Mini Vinnies Visit to the St Vincent’s Centre, Leeds
Our Mini Vinnies were lucky enough to visit the St Vincent’s Centre in Leeds on Tuesday to learn more about what the St Vincent de Paul Society does in Leeds to support people. When we arrived, we meet Sheena the Centre Manager. She asked lots of questions about what we knew already about the centre. We knew that it:
- Has an emergency food bank
- Offers free English lessons to non-English speakers
- Has a café providing fresh food at a low price
- Has a shop where people can buy reasonably priced clothes, furniture, toys, DVDs and baby equipment
Sheena explained that the St Vincent’s Centre does all of these things and more! They provide:
- ‘Art of Conversation’ classes which are drawing classes aimed at people who are lonely and or don’t speak English to help them meet others and make friends
- Provide legal advice
- Offer debt counselling
- ‘Job/Work Club’ which helps prepare people for getting into work by coaching them for interviews and offer a ‘Working Wardrobe’ giving them suitable clothing to attend an interview
- ‘Good Mood Group’ which is run by volunteer counsellors and helps people with their mental health and wellbeing
- Provide ICT lessons for people so that they can learn to access the internet and use a computer
- Presents for children at Christmas time who may not receive any other gifts due to family circumstances or poverty. Sometimes these gifts might be given for a child’s birthday if their family cannot afford to buy them a present even from the Centre’s shop
We had a guided tour of the whole premises, starting with the food cupboard where we learned that they give out food parcels for individuals, couples and families. These parcels include enough basic food to last them for about three days. The food is all donated by people. A local bakery donates any bread they don’t sell on the day it is baked and that is given out to whoever comes into the Centre. All the food in the store cupboard is non-perishable so that it can last for a long time and be available for people when they find themselves in a difficult situation. Sheena explained that this happens more often in the winter when many have to choose between spending the small amount of money they do have either on heating their home or on feeding themselves and their family.
We saw the shop was stocked with all sorts of items of clothing, furniture, toys and baby equipment, books, CDs and DVDs. All of these items were at a very reasonable price for those on a low income to afford. In the same way, the café makes fresh food every day including soup, scones and a main meal. People can get a cup of tea and a scone for £1.30, or a full balanced meal for just £4. The café is open Monday – Friday, and was even open on Christmas Day when they served Christmas Dinner to 15 people who might otherwise have been on their own, along with several volunteers. They had a party and everyone who came got a present!
Sheena gave an example of a family who had been referred to them in the past week and had arrived at the centre. There was a Mum, Dad and three children aged 10, 8 and 5. They had fled from their home in Mosul, Iraq due to the ongoing war there. They arrived in Leeds with little more than the clothes they stood up in. Thanks to the St Vincent’s Centre, they were given food parcels, clothing, toys for the children, a meal, and they will hopefully return to the Centre soon for some English lessons. The Mum was so overwhelmed with the kindness they were shown by the SVP that she cried. Our Mini Vinnies could see from this example that the SVP really carry out the message Jesus gave us in Matthew’s Gospel 25: 35-6
“For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you made me welcome, lacking clothes and you clothed me, sick and you visited me, in prison and you came to see me.”