The next Gen of Social Justice leaders.
Before starting college, joining Young Vinnies was already high on my list of things that I wanted to do.
The first vivid memory I have of witnessing a social justice issue was when I was maybe 7 or 8 and I was on a small trip up to Auckland. My family and I were walking through the city and I was shocked to see how many people were living on the streets. In the moment, I was scared at first - they were strangers asking for money and I didn’t know how to react. But as we continued to walk, I wondered. Why weren’t they sleeping under a roof? Where were their families? Why wasn’t anybody helping them? When I asked my mother, she gave me the simple answer that a 7 year old would be able to understand - that they were just unfortunate. I settled with the answer, of course, but my concern never went away. Being raised in Wellington meant that I continued to witness the same image of people sleeping on the streets, on the likes of Lambton Quay and Courtenay Place. I was also raised watching the news, which showed never-ending stories of poverty and war-stricken countries and it amazed me to know that social justice wasn’t just a problem in New Zealand, but all over the world. As I grew up, I learned how complicated and difficult each individual’s situation can be. I wanted to help where I could, and so when I heard about the work that Young Vinnies did through some of my older friends already in college, I knew I needed to get involved.
Through Young Vinnies in our College I have participated in several activities. In my junior years, I made bookmarks and cards for patients at Wellington Hospital and the elderly. I enjoyed making these as I found hope in the small chance that they might brighten somebody’s day. I’ve also collected for the Annual Street Appeal for the past three years (as long as I’ve been involved in Vinnies), donated to as many food drives as I can since St Mary’s runs a number of them, and volunteered at the food bank and clothing warehouse during the most recent holidays. Participating in these activities has made me grow immensely in gratitude - I’m so grateful for what I’m extremely lucky to have, and I’m grateful that I have been given the opportunity to help others who aren’t in the best of places.
Along with gratitude, I feel that I’ve also grown in terms of compassion. For any human being it’s often easy to unconsciously - or even intentionally - judge another and even potentially act out of that judgement. By participating in the experiences that I’ve had with Vinnies, I’ve become more mindful of the way I treat others. I’ve learned that it’s close to impossible to know what another person is truly going through and so I’ve become far more aware of the way I think about and act towards other people - I always try my best to treat others with respect and kindness, to follow the golden rule of treating others the way you want to be treated. I feel that being a part of Young Vinnies has definitely served as a type of ‘reminder’ to do this.
Young Vinnies has also allowed me to become more aware and understanding of some of the social injustice going on in my community. I cannot stress enough how important it is for younger generations to understand social justice issues. From understanding, we begin to get involved and actually work towards finding a ‘solution’. I use speech marks as I know that there is no single way to actually fix these problems since they are so complex and intricate - more like finding several ways to help overcome them. It’s important for us to get involved because we can carry on the work that is already being done. We can make sure that the longterm improvement that is being made continues to stay long-term. The Society of St Vincent de Paul is making a huge difference to the people affected by these issues and I am so glad to be involved in a small part of it.
Year 11, St Mary’s College
Active Schools in Wellington:
St Patrick’s College
- Young Vinnies leader: AJ Cruz Young
- Vinnies group: 50 students
ST Catherine's COLLEGE
- Young Vinnies leader: Evana Philip
- Vinnies group: 45 students
ST Mary's COLLEGE
- Young Vinnies leader: Anastasia Henderson, Elena Heffernan, Kayley Hamlyn, Sophie De Gregorio
- Vinnies group: 50 students