Visit Report to Grassy Park St Vincent de Paul
Report and pictures by Karen Parkin (July 2, 2010)
I was asked by Deacon Richard Aguirre to deliver a donation to the Grassy Park parish on behalf of the Outreach Programme at Constantia Parish.
Accordingly I arranged to meet up on Friday, July 2 in the afternoon with Bernice Fillmore and Rev Deacon John Sheraton to deliver the donation and to see some of the work that it is going towards supporting.
The Grassy Park area is a large one that has three Catholic churches, Queen of Peace, St Clements, and St Gerard. St Gerard is the smallest of the three with approx 400 people. It has a St Vincent de Paul group and other individuals who have programmes that support the entire area. In Grassy Park, there is one priest, one assistant priest and some deacons. The parish includes an area where there is extreme poverty. The more privileged members of the parish reach out to this community and a lot of work is being done to help and support these frail, dispossessed and marginalised people. The parish and its parishioners can only help these people so far as their own limited resources allow. This is why donations such as ours are greatly appreciated.
There are 2 main assistance programmes that are run:
- St Vincent de Paul Food Parcel Programme
- ‘Fundraising’ programme
St Vincent de Paul Food Parcel, Programme
This programme is run by SVP and consists of supporting 30 families in the area with monthly food parcels. There are many more desperately poor families who need help - 30 families is the number that their current limited resources allow them to help.
Each month food is purchased and food parcels are made up by one of the ladies living in the community (Mrs Christians – see pictures on right).
A monthly food parcel generally consists of cooking oil, sugar, mealie meal, tin of baked beans, tin of fruit, tea bags, peanut butter, salt, packet of rice, and a can of tomato paste.
Some of the People I Met
Mr and Mrs Olifant
As we walked up to the front door of their home I noticed a sticker on the window – ‘This is a Catholic Home’ – proudly displayed. Inside the house felt cold and damp, and the poverty was unspeakable. Mrs Olifant has had 2 strokes and she struggled to walk. Mr Olifant was once a altar boy at the church and he smiled shyly when I asked if I could take his picture.
Mrs Knight suffered from a stroke so she can barely walk. She lives upstairs, which makes getting around even more difficult – or impossible - for her. She hasn’t received her pension for 2 months because someone has been stealing it from her. Sometimes friends, family or others are able to steal pension cards from the elderly, and they simply steal their pensions - their only source of income. When we met her at 2:00pm, the only sustenance she had was one cup of tea. When asked about her family she said that her son has TB and her daughter doesn’t care about her.
Mrs Christians lives in the community and she makes up and distributes the food parcels. Her daughter lives with her and has just had a baby, Tagan, who was asleep in the next room.