You haven’t heard from me in this blog yet. I am visiting CSAN for two weeks with an EU project in order to get to know Caritas in UK. I work for Caritas in Germany, namely for the Caritas Association for the Diocese of Aachen – Aachen is in the very west of Germany close to the Belgium and Dutch boarder. We do political lobbying, communications and campaigns, networking and we offer services and advice for our member organisations… so pretty much the same as CSAN.
Caritas Germany is often referred to as the biggest employer (after the state). And indeed there are organisations in the Caritas network which run big services and residential, as for example nursing care homes for older people, hospitals, children’s residential homes, counselling services, supported housing for disabled people and so on. However, all the different member organisations are legally and economically independent.
During my time in London I had the chance to visit some members of CSAN to get an insight in their work, so for example the Cardinal Hume Centre in Westminster. They are doing amazing work by providing housing and support for young people. In Germany homelessness is an issue, too, in some German cities there is a high rent for flats and houses, but obviously nothing compared to London! It is a good thing that CSAN tackles the topic ahead of the general election in Many 2015!
A second visit brought me to the Catholic Children’s Society Westminster. The charity runs the St. Francis Family Centre, which offers services like nursing activities for children and families – surrounded by social housing and a view on the skyline of Canary Warf I knew from the sightseeing I did the days before I started work at CSAN – what a contrast! We spoke with Rosemary who told us about the challenges facing families in the area, and then it was time for a very noisy lunch with the school kids. As our visit fell on a Friday, fish and chips were on the menu – my favourite British meal!
I also spent a day in the Cornerstone Day Centre in Manchester, which provides help and support for homeless people and people experiencing hardship. We were shown around the Centre, met the receptionist, the cooks, the barber and many more volunteers and staff and I was impressed by how passionate they all were about their work. A dinner together with staff and guests was a valuable experience and in talking to some of the people I could feel how thankful they are for the warmth they experience there.
These moments make it clear for me again: no matter in which country you are – Caritas makes a difference.