Frederic Ozanam once said that “Charity must never look to the past, but always to the future, because the number of its past works is still very small and the present and future miseries that it must alleviate are infinite.” His words resonated with us and we kept them in mind when we started to conceptualise our path for the future. Unsurprisingly, we set ourselves ambitious objectives that reflect the strength and determination of the worldwide Vincentian Family.
Over the past few years, we have focused our efforts on street homelessness as one of the most severe expressions of people not having a home. The practical responses we saw on the ground showed us that the Vincentian Family operates in virtually any environment. Whilst we will continue to serve those living on the streets, we will focus on the needs of slum dwellers, refugees and internally displaced people in the coming years. Oftentimes, they live in appalling conditions and of those that have been displaced, many not only have to cope with the shock of losing a home but also with the often traumatic journey towards safety and the challenges of starting a new life.
Reflecting on what more we could do to support Vincentians respond to their plight helped us to sketch our path for the future. As ever, those we serve are at the core of everything we do with our central objective being to improve and transform the lives of homeless people – this time with a focus on slum dwellers and displaced people. Within this, we will also consider issues that affect these groups disproportionately such as climate change, gender inequality and human trafficking, and explore their connection points to homelessness. We will seek collaboration with Vincentian groups that already work in these areas so we can incorporate their expertise in our approaches.
We will also continue to build global capacity in the Vincentian Family by organising international conferences and webinars to support knowledge exchange. It is also crucial for us to encourage structural change – as Vincentians we know that “it is not enough to do good, it must be done well” (St Vincent de Paul). And our ability to affect systemic change will in turn create more positive futures for the poorest. This extends to the community engagement that we will seek to facilitate over the next years – ensuring that we spotlight the expertise available and enable developments at grassroots level. Last but not least, we understand that communication for social change is an important building block. We need to raise awareness of the plight of homeless people, slum dwellers, refugees and internally displaced people and the challenges they face; and we need to ensure that their voice is heard not only in our communities but globally.
We are excited about what the future holds and look forward to you joining us on this path; and whilst much is still to come and the path is long, let us remember these words of St Vincent de Paul: “Nature makes trees put down deep roots before having them bear fruit, and even this is done gradually.”