Social action group for young people
In 2019, teachers Catherine Moss and Rachel Taylor noticed that children and young people they knew began voicing their concerns about climate change, inspired by teenager Greta Thunberg’s activism. Within Our Lady and St Christopher’s parish in Romiley, they had witnessed children as young as eight years old run events, lead prayers, raise money and volunteer for charitable projects.
Last November, Catherine and Rachel decided to start up a group for young people to help them put their faith into action and to give them a safe space to do so. Rachel said: “We thought that if young people could air their concerns and worries, they could also be empowered to be agents for change and become actively involved in parish social action.”
Rachel, one of the group founders
In their communities, they see homelessness, hunger, isolation, loneliness, poverty and crime, and feel powerless to do anything about it, the group gives them a space to voice their worries, and to come up with a “plan of action”
The young people in the group chose the name Young Caritas, meaning Christian love for humanity or charity, and brainstormed their main areas for concern. The environment and the issues of poverty, loneliness and homelessness topped the list. “In their communities, they see homelessness, hunger, isolation, loneliness, poverty and crime, and feel powerless to do anything about it,” Rachel said. The group gives them a space to voice their worries, and to come up with a “plan of action”.
Before the lockdown, the Young Caritas group, now with 30 members aged between 9 and 14, met twice a month on Saturday afternoons, and have done lots of charitable projects such as a Christmas gifts appeal, a silent vigil for homelessness, and a fundraising appeal for the Rucksack Project that raised £360 as well as 4 cars’ worth of donations that were distributed to homeless people in Stockport. “The fact that a group of young people can work with adults to impact not only the church community but many others in our home town makes me feel so proud and hopeful for our world,” said Zach (Year 9), a member of Young Caritas.
However since the coronavirus pandemic, they have had to change the way they work. In their signature blue high-vis vests, the young people have delivered over 250 leaflets offering to run errands, do shopping or have a telephone chat. They have delivered 120 loaves of bread, done 30 supermarket shopping trips, and have written and delivered 25 letters and cards as well as cookies, scones and plants. A Romiley resident named Carol said: “What a lovely surprise when I opened my door to find a smiling young man and a loaf. The loaf was very welcome but, more than that, was the kindness.”
At Easter time, a funding application to Stockport Local Fund: Community Support paid for 40 fresh food parcels to be delivered using a Knock and Leave approach in time for the Easter weekend. The children were gifted with £100 to buy chocolate eggs for themselves as they were doing so much for vulnerable and isolated residents in the Bredbury and Romiley area. “When Young Caritas first started, none of us realised how big an impact we could make by being part of this group,” said Lucia (Year 9), a member of Young Caritas. The young people were very grateful for the kind offer but felt they wanted to give Easter Eggs to families with young children living in temporary accommodation after being made homeless.
Altogether, the Young Caritas have helped over 70 people during the last 6 weeks of lockdown, and Rachel and Catherine are incredibly proud of them. “Young people do not want to be by-standers,” Rachel said. “They are passionate and spontaneous and full of vitality and enthusiasm. Catherine and I feel so privileged to travel alongside these young people as they put love for humanity into action.”