Youth SVP

The Youth SVP group based at St Mary’s Church, Horsforth in the Leeds Diocese is one of over 120 Youth SVPs, currently active in schools and parishes throughout England & Wales. Youth SVP offers opportunities for young people aged under 18 to form their own groups, meeting regularly to pray and reflect on the Gospel message to help people in need. They engage in volunteering activities in the local community, bringing Christ’s love to people less fortunate than themselves. They run their own meetings and choose their activities according to their skills and preferences, but they have the support of an adult, known as the Group Adviser.

St Mary’s Horsforth Youth SVP
The Youth SVP was formed in 2008 by a group of young people in the parish who had just received the sacrament of Confirmation. Challenged during a post-Confirmation retreat to think of ways in which they could use their spiritual gifts, they decided that Youth SVP might offer them appropriate opportunities. Three of the parents, who had accompanied them as catechists during their preparation for Confirmation, made a commitment to continue supporting the members. One of them, Rose McCarthy, took on the role of Group Adviser. There are currently 9 active members, aged15-17.

As well as supporting parish events such as the Christmas Fair and the party for older people, and offering junior hockey and football coaching at an after-school club, the Youth SVP is involved in a local project – the Gateway Club, Pudsey, which provides social, leisure and sports activities for adults with a learning disability The club welcomes 80-100 people who meet on Thursday evenings from 6.45 – 9pm at Priesthorpe School in Pudsey, Leeds for fun activities, sports and games, supported by friendly staff and volunteers.

As the Youth SVP members wrote in an article for the Leeds Catholic Post:
“Some of our group attend a club for disabled adults called Gateway. The aim of the group is for the members to have a fun, socialise and to give their carers a break. They participate in different sports at the club including football, table tennis and curling. Some members of the club compete in the Special Olympics, proving that despite their disability, they can achieve just as much as anyone else. We all look forward to going to the club; it’s the highlight of our week!”

Rose continues:
“Recently some of them went to support these adults in their initial trials for the Special Olympics. Just before Easter, Gateways had a fundraiser for the Special Olympics and our Youth SVP group ran two stalls. The surprising thing about the evening was an unplanned disco happened! A DJ played some music and even though the fundraiser was in a brightly lit school hall, loads of these adults started dancing. They were amazing and had no inhibitions at all. The funny thing was they inspired our young people to do the same and they had a great time dancing for hours with the adults. I find it heart- warming to watch our young people, who initially were unsure how to interact with adults with learning difficulties, now greeting them as friends and even learning to lose their own inhibitions.”
Other events run by the Youth SVP
Rose writes:
“We organised a sponsored walk for the parish up one of the Yorkshire Three Peaks for the British Heart Foundation. Our newest members from the last Confirmation group came up with the idea because we have had a number of people in the parish with heart problems including baby Gabrysia, who needed a heart transplant to survive. Amazingly she got one and is now a wonderful happy little toddler who regularly attends mass and claps and cheers at every song that is sung. She and her family are in inspiration to us all. We had several training sessions when we did local walks. One was on Gabrysia’s birthday and she was still in isolation at that point. We called at the house at the start of our walk, gave her a birthday present and sang Happy Birthday to her. She grinned like a Cheshire Cat and waved us on our way, it was really lovely. When we were ready we did the sponsored walk, with many other members of the parish up and down Ingleborough peak. We had originally thought we might do the three peaks but on reflection thought this might be too far especially after one of the young people asked if she could wear high heels! It was a terrific day, a real social experience and felt like a great achievement.

Support for refugees and asylum-seekers
Rose is a founder member of Leeds City of Sanctuary and is involved in several projects supporting refugees and asylum-seekers. She encouraged the Youth SVP group to organise a parish collection of presents and the group brought them to PAFRAS (Positive Action of Refugees and Asylum-Seekers), a support project based in a Leeds parish hall. This was a great opportunity for the young members to meet people face to face, who have been forced by circumstances to leave their homes in other parts of the world. They met people from Afghanistan, Iran, the Congo and were very moved by the stories they heard. The Youth SVP members have promised to continue visiting the project.

For the Future

The Youth SVP continues to work selflessly for others in their local community, raising money for vital causes and gaining friends and having fun at the same time!