“The government says jump and we say how high,” states Trinity Vincent de Paul Society’s (Trinity VDP) Treasurer Alex Fish in the society’s plan of action for the coming year. Trinity VDP is the largest and most active student charity organisation in the country, working in solidarity with people experiencing poverty and disadvantage. No matter what activity they organise or what event they make an appearance at, members of the society are present with cheerful energy and smiles on their faces. Any assistance offered by the society is given in a non-judgemental spirit and no work of charity is foreign to them.
Like many other charities, Trinity VDP was no exception to the effects of Covid-19 and governmental guidelines which have since halted many of their services. The country’s lockdown in March was an undeniably hard blow to the society’s work. “It was decided for the sake of everyone’s safety to take a step back,” says the society’s Vice-President of Activities, Cathal McGuinness. Some of the work members do in tackling issues of homelessness in the city, such as the weekly street outreach and food bank, were shut down immediately due to the pandemic. Over the summer, the society has been in contact with a few different branches of the St Vincent de Paul charity, which has been back working in the city centre since July. “The overwhelming response, as always, is that we all need to get back out there on the streets helping out,” says McGuinness.
“Some of the work VDP does in tackling the issue of homelessness in the city, such as the weekly street outreach and foodbank, were shut down immediately due to the pandemic.”
Trinity VDP works with afterschool programs in five different DEIS schools in the Dublin area, facilitating activities in art, music, drama, homework, and sport. With the ever changing stages of restrictions, the society is unaware when it will be able to continue these programs. The committee is in constant contact with the National St Vincent de Paul Charity Council of Ireland, who have been working all summer on adapting their volunteer training for the safety of all involved. This time of year is usually peak time for the society in getting new volunteers properly trained and greeted into their community, something they are hoping to begin online this semester. “We’re definitely looking to push more webinars and online activities, and have more of an online presence as usually our presence is felt around campus,” says McGuinness. Despite a growing online fatigue, the powerful momentum from society members will help make Freshers feel welcome and involved, even if it is held remotely. These events will be advertised on the Trinity VDP Facebook page.
[/pullquote]“In the hope of restrictions being eased, VDP intends to proceed with a socially distanced panto”[/pullquote]
All this uncertainty puts a misty cloud over one of the society’s biggest events of the year — the panto. This veritable annual highlight, created in collaboration with local schools, radiates enjoyment and triumph. The fate of the production is yet to be determined for the upcoming year. In the hope of restrictions being eased, Trinity VDP intends to proceed with a socially distanced panto, “which I think could work in our favour, as no one’s played with comedy while ensuring social distancing yet”, says Fish, who also directed last year’s panto. He hopes to ensure the continued collaboration with local school children and members of the society, something he believes is essential to the spirit of the panto. “Not having them involved is like missing the star of the show, really,” he adds.
[/pullquote]“Although certain fundraising events have been put on hold for the foreseeable future, hopefully by Christmas VDP will have returned with their high vis vests and Santa hats, shaking the bucket outside front arch.”[/pullquote]
Considering the turbulence of the world we currently live in, Trinity VDP is aware of the high possibility of not being able to fully engage in their usual activities due to Covid-19. However, the society is viewing this as an opportunity to focus more intently on other areas of social justice within the community. This semester, the Trinity VDP social justice sub-committee, led by newly elected social justice officer Conall Keane, will focus on issues that arise due to Direct Provision in our communities. On their panel this year they also have Trinity alumnus and TD Roderic O’Gorman, who has served as Minister for Children, Disability, Equality and Integration. “Under the title of homelessness, they’ll be discussing matters of Direct Provision, addiction and housing,” says McGuinness.
Members of the committee don’t believe that there will be a shortfall in fundraising this year and will continue to raise awareness of Trinity VDP’s valuable work. Although certain fundraising events have been put on hold for the foreseeable future, hopefully, by Christmas, members will have returned with their Hi-Vis vests and Santa hats, shaking a bucket outside the front arch. “[The society] is like an insane clock with so many different parts and it sort of slowed down for a while, but I think as soon as we’re allowed to be back doing what we do it’s most definitely going to be full steam ahead — while being really careful,” says Fish. Indeed, a reign of positivity sits on the society’s committee this coming year. Social justice is at the core of Trinity VDP, and even if they can’t fully thrive in the fantastic work they do, they certainly will not lose their impact.