In my previous article I mentioned the fact that the Society in Canada, and perhaps other countries, has seen the home visit become more of a delivery service, with little time spent on visiting our neighbours in need. In addition, we have some conferences that no longer do home visits. The reasons for both actions usually include an ageing membership, lack of members and fear of going to some locations. Whether these are reasons or excuses, I will not judge.
I would rather focus on the benefits of the original notion of the home visit and what I am certain Ozanam envisioned. I like to use the three E’s of Engage-Encourage-Enable to explain what the home visit can and should mean to the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul.
To engage in a meaningful conversation with those we visit allows us to listen to their needs and challenges while we endeavour to develop a relationship of caring and sharing. It is seldom anyone really listens to someone considered by many to be at the bottom of society. This engagement allows the person to retain the human dignity they are born with and deserve. It also allows us to encourage those we visit to speak freely and hopefully to share their opinions on what changes could lead to them escaping poverty, or at the very least, having some hope things will improve. The final and perhaps most important part of the personal contact we experience during the home visit, is that after the initial engagement and encouragement which we offer, we can enable those we meet to speak for themselves about the barriers they face every day of their lives.
It is very rare that our new friends are ever given a means to express their fears, hopes and even solutions to changing systems and reasons why poverty exists and why they are caught in this terrible cycle. Yes, the home visit can be an essential part of systemic change and one that certainly demonstrates how valuable the advice Ozanam received from Sister Rosalie truly was.
About the author:
Jim Paddon lives in London, Ontario, Canada and is past president of the Ontario Regional Council of the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul. He is currently chair of the National Social Justice Committee of the Society in Canada. He is married to his dear wife Pat and they have six daughters and eleven grandchildren. Jim has been a member of the Society since the 1970’s.