We caught up with Sonia from the Insight team. Insight is a Caritas project that has now been running at St John the Evangelist Catholic Cathedral Portsmouth for three years! Sonia has journeyed from being supported by Insight to joining the team and serving others.
Sonia and the rest of the volunteer team behind Insight.
Three years ago, Caritas launched its Insight project at the Catholic Cathedral Portsmouth. The idea was simple, provide a space for a relaxed space and lunch for those struggling with mental health or isolation, right at the heart of the city. All this time later, it's still going, run by a dedicated team of volunteers.
In that time, Insight has impacted the lives of so many. For Sonia, a local from Portsea, Insight at the cathedral was her first contact with anything Catholic, having grown up in a Methodist family. For her, Insight arrived at just the right time, finding out through a friend that it was starting up. 'She thought it would be ideal for me, because I used to isolate myself when I got poorly, and it’s been great. It’s the only group that I go to that is mental health based ... the group's good because it’s an umbrella of things and it’s nice for people to meet up, whatever background you’re in – it’s really good.'
Asked how the support of Insight has helped her over those years and whether she sees a change in herself, Sonia said, 'I’m not as cynical as I used to be! [laughs] I used to be scared of people, I used to be paranoid of people – it’s kind of given me socialising skills.'
In fact, Sonia eventually became part of the Insight team and is now a key member of their team. She described the experience of becoming a volunteer this way:
'Well it started off slowly, I used to come early and I used to put out stuff and then it was just a slow progression and it really worked out well. I like being in the background I don’t like being in charge of something, I like doing things quietly – organising stuff is great. I don’t do the kitchen though, I’m not a good cook! ... they’re such a really nice bunch of people that you don’t feel like you’re being judged – they encourage, and it’s great. I’ve never come across a bunch of people like that. You don’t realise how much they did while you were a person that used the service until you became a volunteer and saw all the organisation and new ideas to fundraise for it – it’s great. It’s like another community within a community.'
This experience of a non-judgemental community at the cathedral then led Sonia to explore the Catholic faith for herself. She eventually enrolled herself in RCIA (the Rite of Catholic Initiation of Adults) at the Cathedral.
'When I started coming to the cathedral, I felt like I fitted in, there was no pressure, I could be myself. And then I made enquiries, so because of my background I was allowed to do the last couple of sessions of this course before the RCIA course and I started the RCIA course.'
Following this, Sonia was confirmed at the Cathedral this year! She called this experience 'very moving, I ended up crying afterwards uncontrollably.'
Asked how this journey has changed her relationship with God, she stated: 'Yeah, I’m more accepting of people and more accepting of the faults that I have and of myself and like I say, I’m working on it, so each day I get better ... it is seeing things in a different way and accepting that I’m not perfect – far from it! - and other people aren’t perfect so to stop expecting that of other people ... And it gives me focus, I think, instead of thinking about myself all the time I think of other people.'
Insight runs from 10:30am to 1pm every Tuesday at St John the Evangelist Catholic Cathedral. If you would like to help to support Insight, or to start a social outreach project like it, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org