Caritas

Caritas Westminster seeks to bring about a society where everyone lives a life of dignity and worth.

They aim to help individuals in the Diocese of Westminster to use their gifts and talents to create inclusive and caring communities.


 

Addressing the scandal of food poverty

Along with footballer Marcus Rashford, Caritas Westminster welcomes the Prime Ministers pledge to provide an extra £170 million for struggling families to feed their children during the Christmas holidays.

Since March, Caritas Westminster has witnessed an incredible response to shocking increases in food poverty and insecurity. We have seen schools becoming foodbanks, priests becoming food delivery drivers, and thousands of volunteers giving up their time to  help. The foodbank at St Mary’s in Finchley has reported a 400% increase in users since March, and the Borehamwood Foodbank had given out more food parcels by August 2020 than they had in the whole of 2019. Projects which previously served mainly individual homeless people, have seen more families asking for support – people who have never needed help before. The number of children going to school hungry is on the increase.

As well as backing the campaign campaign to provide food to children during the school holidays, we are also calling for the extension of Free School Meals to the children of migrants with No Recourse to Public Funds. No child should go hungry because of their parents’ immigration status.

In our last newsletter we asked you to write to your MP regarding the provision of free breakfasts in schools. We are pleased to say that enough MPs supported Emma Lewell-Buck’s School Breakfast Bill that it will go forward for a second reading.
All these policies are important in ensuring hunger does not disrupt any child’s education but they are not, by themselves, a solution to the issue of food poverty.Cardinal Vincent Nichols last week joined 20 faith leaders in writing to the Prime Minister to call for a ‘coherent, cross-government and cross-party strategy to tackle the underlying causes of child poverty, including low pay, educational disadvantage, and the shortage of affordable housing and childcare.’

Read more about the extraordinary response from projects in the diocese, including the incredible number of meals provided in just three months.

At Caritas Westminster we are always excited to be able to support projects which put the community at the heart of food provision, especially when they are run by a talented and energetic person like Aina Omo-Bare, who started Idia’s kitchen in Hoxton, East London. Aina and her volunteers serve cooked meals three times a week to around 40 people. Everyone is welcome, and people from all backgrounds come and find company as well as expertly cooked food. One customer stated that Aina’s food is “the best in the East End”. Find out more, including what happened when Aina invited a passing city worker to share the food.

Support for the road ahead

15th November 2020 will mark the Fourth World Day of the Poor, which Pope Francis has given the theme “Stretch forth your hand to the poor” (Sir 7:32). We have seen this theme lived out in projects like Idia’s Kitchen, foodbanks, and the many other services reaching out to the marginalised.

However, it is crucial that we look not just to feed the hungry and help the poor, but to help them tackle the factors causing their situation. The hand we stretch out must not just be a hand-out but also a hand up out of poverty.

Caritas Westminster are launching the Road to Resilience – a new programme of work focussing on helping people out of poverty and empowering them to be more resilient to the shocks and challenges that cause insecurity.

If you are involved with a social outreach project, you can join us on the Road to Resilience. You will be part of a network, attend training events, reflect on Catholic Social teaching and access resources to help you build on the long term success of your project.

To hear news specifically about the Road to Resilience Programme, click here toupdate your preferences and select the option “Road to Resilience”

Join us on the Road to Resilience

Get Involved

Every Christmas Caritas Westminster partners with PACT, the Catholic charity supporting prisoners and their families. Hundreds of people from across the diocese buy presents for prisoners children.

Every Christmas – except this Christmas.

The coronavirus pandemic means that the locked up, are locked down. Christmas family events will not be able to happen, making the delivery of presents extremely difficult.

But PACT, which has been helping prisoners’ families for 120 years, are not going to let a pandemic stop them. They are asking people to send them book tokens to be delivered to prisons so that the prisoners can send them to their children for Christmas.
Yes, I will send a book token for a prisoner’s child

Could you make face masks for the homeless?
We are collecting home made masks to be distributed by the SVP
find out how

Remember those who struggle for food this Christmas season with theCaritas Food Collective Advent Giving Calendar. 

Mourning migrant deaths

image: Bishop Paul McAleenan in Dover-  credit Mazur/CBCEW.org.uk

All of us at Caritas Westminster were deeply saddened to hear that a migrant family with small children lost their lives attempting to cross the English channel last week.

John Coleby, our director said that the tragedy: ‘once again confronts us with the risks people are prepared to take to escape conflict, exploitation, violence and poverty…People fleeing their countries do not do so lightly; they need our support to find their way safely to the refuge we call the UK”

Bishop Paul McAleenan, who leads on Migration issues for the bishops of England and Wales, also commented – read both statements in full on our website

Twice isolated – the Deaf Community in lockdown

signing choir in Walsingham 2019, image from Caritas Deaf Service

Did you ever wonder how Deaf people, for whom Sign Language is their main language, can learn about a pandemic from TV news?

Or how people reliant on lipreading, cope seeing everyone in facemasks?

And how does a Deaf person feel when told they can only speak to their doctor on the phone?

The Caritas Deaf service has interviewed five members of the Deaf Community and the stories they told are a fascinating eye-opener into the lives of a group already marginalised.

We are running a series of online events to inspire and skill volunteers. Check out our events page.

Your support goes further than you might think

As well as managing Caritas Bakhita House, which does incredible work for its guests who are all women victims of slavery or trafficking, Karen Anstiss spends a lot of time working with other organisations to raise awareness and lobby for action on trafficking. In recent months she has been working with St Mary’s university, Twickenham, to produce a training framework for anyone in a position of caring for victims of slavery and trafficking. This manual is published by Skills for Care and was launched on 22 September.
As we enter into another lockdown, we are convinced that the generosity we saw from volunteers and donors back in March will continue. We are inspired by those across the diocese and beyond, who are proactively building up community, strengthening bonds between those who have more and those who have less. We pray too that the loving commitment of all who work in social outreach projects will bring about lasting change in our society.

In his recent encyclical, Fratelli Tutti, Pope Francis wrote “It is an act of charity to assist someone suffering, but it is also an act of charity, even if we do not know that person, to work to change the social conditions that caused his or her suffering.”

Please continue to support the work of Caritas Westminster in whatever way you can, through prayer, volunteering, campaigning for justice or giving financially.

Click here to donate to Caritas Westminster

Caritas logo

We know that love makes families and friendships flourish; but it is good to remember that it also makes social, cultural, economic, and political relationships flourish, allowing us to construct a “civilization of love”…

A virus that does not recognize barriers, borders, or cultural or political distinctions must be faced with a love without barriers, borders, or distinctions. This love can generate social structures that encourage us to share rather than to compete, which allow us to include the most vulnerable and not to cast them aside.     Pope Francis, 9 September 2020

Dear friend,

In the past six months at Caritas Westminster, we have been amazed by the love shown by our partners and volunteers as they have stepped up to the greater needs exposed by the pandemic and the economic difficulties it has caused.

The words above come from one of a series of addresses by the pope on love – or “caritas” – which underpins all the church’s teaching on how to live in society. We are greatly looking forward to reading more along these lines in the forthcoming encyclical “Fratelli Tutti” due to be published on 3 October.

Feeding our children.

The pandemic has both increased need and made it more apparent, especially when children stopped going to school in March. Yet so many volunteers stepped up in solidarity, and projects set up for one purpose swiftly changed course to help in other ways.
A school holiday hamper delivery scheme, that has been run by Radlett Churches Together for five years, began delivering food, as usual in the Easter Holidays. And they did not stop! For 23 weeks, hampers were lovingly put together and delivered to 40 families. Parishioners donated food, and a school library gave books. Caritas Westminster provided supermarket vouchers and helped the project gain grant money of over £5,000.
Now that children are back in school, those entitled to free school meals will get a hot meal each lunchtime. But this doesn’t include some of the most vulnerable children. The Caritas Food Collective has supported calls for free school meals to be provided for all children, regardless of immigration status.
Did you have a good breakfast this morning? Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, 1.8 million school age children were at risk of starting the day hungry. On October 14th, supported by Caritas Westminster and Magic Breakfast, Emma Lewell-Buck MP will introduce The School Breakfast Bill in the House of Commons.
Support the School Breakfast Bill – Write to Your MP
This Bill askes the govenment to give schools with high levels of disadvantage the support they need to provide a free breakfast to children at risk of hunger. The aim is simply to ensure that children start the day ready to learn..
Please write to your MP and asking them to support the School Breakfast Bill. By taking this small action you will be acting in accordance with Catholic Social Teaching which  tells us that a just society is one which puts the needs of the most vulnerable first.

Welcoming students back to St Joseph’s

Staff and students at Caritas St Joseph’s had a happy reunion earlier this month, when doors were opened at the pastoral centre – a college for adults with learning disabilities – for the first time in nearly six months.

The team have been working hard to ensure that the site is “COVID-secure” and are really pleased that 135 students have returned. Changes include making more use of a marquee to help with social distancing in dance classes, and employing another cleaner to work during the day.

The students that are back are happy and safe and we are all adjusting to the new way of working. They love seeing their friends and laughter once again is ringing in the classrooms!

Plans are in place to connect online with students who are still locked down in care homes.

Introducing Young Caritas

Each fortnight for the past two months, a group of young people (18-30) have been meeting online to discover more about social justice and to discuss what our faith teaches us about human dignity and solidarity. Topics so far have included racial inequality and youth leadership, and this week they discussed the vital issue of the environment.

If you are interested in attending, or know a young person who might be, please emailcaritaswestminster@rcdow.org.uk

Get involved!

The Season of Creation lasts until the Feast of St Francis, 4 October. Westminster Justice and Peace are running an exciting video competition – find out more.

Are you a Caritas volunteer? Would you like to be? We are running a series of informal online events –find out more on our events page

In looking ahead to World Day of the Poor, which is November 15th, and reading the Pope’s message these words jumped out:

This pandemic arrived suddenly and caught us unprepared, sparking a powerful sense of bewilderment and helplessness. Yet hands never stopped reaching out to the poor. This has made us all the more aware of the presence of the poor in our midst and their need for help. Structures of charity, works of mercy, cannot be improvised. Constant organization and training is needed, based on the realization of our own need for an outstretched hand.

Could it be that the Pope has been listening into our virtual meetings? These are precisely the issues we are working on – how to respond with love but also good organisation. We encourage our projects to not only provide for people’s physical needs, but to become supportive communities which, in time, allow people to address long term problems, and become more resilient. Our outstretched hands do not only offer food, but solidarity and friendship

Below are some messages of gratitude received by the volunteers in Radlett, but which have been echoed across the diocese.

Thank you for your support of Caritas Westminster.

Click here if you feel able to support us financially.