The St Vincent de Paul Society (SVP) has underpinned its commitment to young people by appointing experienced youth services professional Sarah Barber as its Director of Youth Services...
Sarah joins the SVP leadership team as the Society cements its position as a vital grassroots element in care services across the country and offers an outlet for the talents of young people of all ages. Over the past year, the SVP's role in supporting young people and their families has taken on an added urgency and significance as households struggle in the wake of the pandemic.
Following her tenure as Director of the Brentwood Catholic Youth Service, in 2013 Sarah joined CAFOD in the newly created role of Youth Leadership Coordinator during which time she developed the sixth form CAFOD Young Leadership Programme, which now runs in nine dioceses. In 2014, she was promoted to Youth Team Leader.
SVP Chief Executive Elizabeth Palmer said: "I am delighted to welcome Sarah to the St Vincent De Paul Society. She has a wealth of experience delivering youth ministry, both at diocesan level and nationally in her most recent role at CAFOD. The SVP Young Vincentian Programme gives young people between the ages of five and 33 the opportunity to join the Vincentian family and engage in age-appropriate social action in their school, college, university or parish. Sarah's knowledge, energy and enthusiasm will ensure the programme goes from strength to strength in the months and years ahead."
Commenting on her appointment, Sarah Barber said: "The SVP is 200 years old in 2033, and I want to use that date as a goal to build greater awareness of the SVP among young people. One of my key objectives is that every school should include some expression of SVP in its community. Ultimately, I want young people leaving education to know that they can connect with the SVP because it has been a key part of their lives during their time at school."
Sarah's inspiration for voluntary work and youth services started when she was 15 and a member of the Brentwood Catholic Youth Service. Later, she undertook voluntary work around the world, which has provided inspiration for her later career. In the 1990s she travelled to Romania as part of the To Romania with Love initiative which provided aid to orphanages, hospitals and schools. In 2009, she travelled to Honduras and Nicaragua as a volunteer with CAFOD, which helped her to understand the impact climate change was already having on real people's lives.
Meanwhile, in 2019 her work took her to Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory as an accompanier to young adults on a CAFOD gap year. Of her experience in the Middle East, Sarah says: "I've never been anywhere before where I've experienced such a sense of hopelessness - it was really overwhelming seeing such a poverty of rights. I have a greater appreciation of solidarity having been there, and watching the news currently coming out of the Holy Land makes me desperately sad for everyone involved. I pray for peace and a just outcome for all communities."
The SVP Young Vincentian programme has over 600 groups in England and Wales across different age ranges, including Mini Vinnies (7-11 year olds), Youth SVP (11-14 year olds), B-Attitude (14-18 year olds), and svp1833 (18-33 year olds). Additionally, the SVP runs seven summer camps for young people aged 8-14 who are in need of a break because of family problems such as unemployment, illness, bereavement or relationship breakdown.
Sarah added: "The SVP is the hidden treasure of youth ministry, there's so much going on, but not enough young people are aware of it. The potential is exciting and I'm really looking forward to working with the team to reach out to more of our young people."
"Two quotes seem to perfectly capture the scope of my work for the SVP. The first is from St Vincent de Paul, who said, 'Go to the poor - you will find God,' and the other is from Blessed Frederic Ozanam, who urges, 'Do not be afraid of new beginnings, be creative, be inventive.' Both are appropriate for this new challenge in my life."
Sarah lives in Billericay and has been married to husband James, a teacher, for 30 years. They have two children, aged 20 and 22.
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