Over the past five months, parishes and schools in the Diocese of Westminster have been responding to the dramatic increase in financial hardship in their communities during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Many parishes and schools have set up projects to support those who are struggling to cover the cost of food for themselves or their families. In June this year, the Brazilian chaplaincy at St Anne’s Church, Whitechapel, opened its own foodbank with the support of Caritas Westminster.
The foodbank at the Brazilian chaplaincy is currently working with 25 families each week, including Brazilian and Portuguese families scattered across London.
Volunteers within Whitechapel parish have been preparing food parcels and delivering groceries directly to those in need. Donations to the foodbank come from the food distribution charity FareShare, as well as from Tower Hamlets Council. The chaplaincy was introduced to the work of FareShare by Minet Masho, Caritas Westminster Development Worker for East London.
The need for the foodbank was identified after the chaplaincy joined the Caritas Emergency Food Voucher scheme in April 2020. The scheme provided over 70 parishes and schools in the Dioceses of Westminster and Southwark with supermarket vouchers to be distributed to individuals and families in need. The supermarket vouchers offered immediate food relief in a remote and safe way during lockdown. Working closely with Minet Masho from Caritas Westminster, the chaplaincy decided to bolster the support offered by the voucher scheme by setting up its own foodbank.
Like many people across the country, the community served by the chaplaincy has been adversely affected by the pandemic and the subsequent lockdown. Many of those who have approached the chaplaincy for support have recently become unemployed or have low incomes. Some have no recourse to public funds due to their immigration status. Others have been directly impacted by the virus.
One parishioner needed support after her husband, who was the main financial provider, contracted Covid-19 and was hospitalised in intensive care for nearly three months. Sadly, he died.
Telma Melo, Parish Administrator at the Brazilian chaplaincy, said: “On behalf of the Brazilian chaplaincy, I would like to thank Caritas Westminster for the great support you have shown to our parishioners.”
Melo also described how there has been great community spirit and resolve, even in the midst of the pandemic: “We noticed that many parishioners helped each other in the way they could: either by delivering food to those who could not leave their homes, by donating money to the ones in need, or by calling and visiting isolated individuals to pray and talk. We are glad to see the community united and supportive.”
One individual and her family were supported by the foodbank after she lost her job as a housekeeper during lockdown. Her husband was unable to work due to underlying health conditions. As a result, the family were struggling to pay their bills and buy food. They have now received food parcels, supermarket vouchers and donations from the parish to help them through this time.
Minet Masho, Caritas Westminster Development Worker for East London, said: “It is unfortunate that in a wealthy country like the UK there are families and individuals in our parishes and schools struggling to have three healthy meals a day. Caritas Westminster, through the food voucher scheme and by supporting the establishment of local foodbanks, has been a pillar to many people during these difficult times.”
If you would like to support the work of Caritas Westminster, you can donate at: bit.ly/caritasdonations.
If your parish or school needs support to help those in your community, please contact: [email protected].
Picture: Fr Patrick Longo Francischini and Sr Elizabete Cristina Costa from the Brazilian chaplaincy team with donations for the foodbank. (Westminster Diocese).