Stepping out against poverty in solidarity with people in need
With the weather warming up and summer fast approaching, Catholics in Cardiff and Shrewsbury Dioceses will soon be putting on their walking shoes to step out against poverty.
The Big Mile, a walk of one mile for everyone, is being held in parishes and schools across both dioceses to raise awareness of UK poverty. The SVP (St Vincent de Paul Society) and CSAN (Caritas Social Action Network), two Catholic charities who actively work to reduce poverty are jointly organising the Big Mile in Shrewsbury and Cardiff to bring communities together, walk in solidarity with people in need, and raise funds to combat poverty in the UK.
The UK has one of the world’s largest economies so it is easy to forget that 13 million people here are living in poverty, according to the Joseph Rowntree Foundation. Elizabeth Palmer, chief executive of the SVP England and Wales, said: “The SVP has been actively working to alleviate poverty in England and Wales since 1844. This walk is an opportunity for SVP members and non SVP members alike to come together and walk in solidarity with those in need.”
The idea behind holding a walk of one mile is to make it as inclusive as possible. Anyone, including those with limited fitness, older people, children, and people with disabilities can join in. Many parishes will hold a barbecue, picnic, or garden party afterwards to help bring people together. The main focus is on community building and poverty awareness.
CSAN chief executive Helen O’Brien said: “Walking has always been symbolic. Whether it is a pilgrimage, a hike or a march, joining together to walk for something we believe in means something. As The Big Mile shows, it doesn’t have to be a great distance or a monumental challenge that makes a difference. By joining together to walk a mile, parishes, schools and community groups are working to eradicate poverty here on their doorsteps. Thank you to everyone who is taking part.”
All participants make a small donation to join in, and parishes can organise additional activities such as cake sales and raffles to raise more money. The funds raised will support work being carried out by the SVP and CSAN partners.
Michael Scarlett, president of the SVP in Cardiff Archdiocese, said: “The Big Mile will promote social justice and help the SVP carry out its work in Cardiff where last year 300 volunteers donated time to make over 6400 visits to older people, helping to alleviate loneliness and isolation. Last year, SVP members in Cardiff helped a total of 2,400 vulnerable people.”
In Cardiff Archdiocese, as well as supporting the SVP, proceeds from The Big Mile will also go towards the CSAN supported charity Pact (Prison Advice and Care Trust). Pact runs services in Cardiff prison, and has strong working links with community organisations. As well as running prison-based family support, community projects and catering services, Pact is also leading the development of a Welsh network of practitioners who are involved with families who might be dealing with imprisonment.
Dominic Ion is president of the SVP in Shrewsbury where nearly 700 members volunteer their time to help the vulnerable. Last year SVP members in Shrewsbury diocese helped 11,609 people in need, and carried out over 52,000 visits to the elderly, refugees, families suffering fin-ancial hardship, and offenders re-entering the community.
Dominic said: “With the General Election just around the corner, it is hoped that the Big Mile will help put poverty in the public consciousness so that more people will support charities like the SVP and CSAN.”
In Shrewsbury the Big Mile will also help the Catholic Children’s Society, which offers support to families including counselling services and parenting courses. They also work with children and young people in schools, supporting them through difficult times such as loss or bereavement, abuse, or mental health problems.
The Big Mile will take place in schools and parishes across Shrewsbury and Cardiff Dioceses in June 2015. To find out more visit www.bigmile.org.uk, or follow The Big Mile on facebook or www.twitter.com/@TheBigMile on Twitter. If you live in the dioceses of Shrewsbury or Cardiff you can also register your interest to organise a walk by phoning 020 7703 3030.