It is with great pleasure that I present the 2019/20 Annual Report for the St Vincent de Paul Society NSW
This year has compressed and stretched time. First, we were rushed into shutdown – guillotined from family, friends study and work. Then, incarcerated in our homes, isolated from each other, the weeks and months dragged by – as slow, it seemed, as a cure for COVID.
This Annual Report can only highlight the vast good works of our members, volunteers, and staff. We rebuilt communities affected by bushfires. We visited and cared for people in their homes. We provided people without a home with shelter, food, and safety. Each relationship that we forged with people in need illustrates God’s hope and love – made possible by the compassion and the generous spirit of our people.
Our membership is central to all we do. These ordinary men and women perform extraordinary acts of hope and care for others, each day. In this last year, our members made 147,700 visits to people in need and provided $15.9 million in assistance. Tens of thousands of volunteers gave hundreds of thousands of hours in our services and shops, looking after others. Most importantly, our members and volunteers offered a listening ear, a shoulder to cry on and a hand up. This assistance meant that our fellow Australians did not go without food, were able to keep the gas or electricity on, or even a roof over their head. With our help, those we assisted kept their families together, kept kids in school, and got themselves back to work and back into the community.
This year we have started to reinvigorate our membership. The Society was started by a young man, Frederic Ozanam. Fred and his friends were in their twenties. Their youthful eagerness to help people experiencing poverty exploded into a vibrant organisation that now thrives in 140 countries around the world. Our members are dedicated, compassionate and selfless and in the coming year you should all watch out – they will be inviting new volunteers to join us in our great works of charity and justice.
I am particularly proud of the Society’s advocacy work. We are determined to shape a just and compassionate society. Pope Francis, in his recent encyclical, Fratelli Tutti, reminds us “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.” This year we continued to call for more investment in social and affordable housing and to permanently raise the Newstart allowance.
I have been inspired at how quickly we responded to the COVID-19 pandemic. Overnight, our members, volunteers, and staff drove themselves – even as their own lives were disrupted – to keep helping the people we serve. They showed collective grassroots leadership at its best.
I have been fortunate to lead the Society this year. I thank my fellow State Council members, our Board and leadership team for their hard work and commitment to the good works of the St Vincent de Paul Society NSW.
To our donors and supporters this year, I thank you on behalf of all involved: our members, our volunteers, our staff, and above all, the companions we assist – and who themselves assist and bless us.
I trust and pray that this report inspires us to keep helping others – so they can transform their lives.
Peter McNamara – State President, St Vincent de Paul Society NSW