“All we need is two hours of people’s time per week”
Volunteers are desperately needed at Refood Albufeira, the local branch of a larger charity which aims to fight food waste by delivering leftover food from restaurants and supermarkets that would otherwise go to waste to people in need.
The appeal has been made by Paulo Agualusa, coordinator of Refood Albufeira, which provides food and meals to 206 beneficiaries per week in the Albufeira area, including 75 children.
Despite having almost 200 volunteers, the number is often insufficient to meet the demands of running such an important charity for so many families.
“All we need is two hours of people’s time per week,” Agualusa told the Resident.
There are particular times of the day – especially at night – when volunteers are most sorely needed.
“There is a supermarket that we have to collect food from at 11pm. It is very difficult to find people who can or are willing to leave their home at that time of night,” the coordinator explains.
Volunteers can be of any age or nationality.
“We have volunteers of many different nationalities, from Portuguese and British to Swedish, French and Brazilians, so language is not a problem, and of all ages, including several children who sometimes accompany their parents,” Agualusa told us.
While Refood Albufeira struggles with having enough volunteers, the same thankfully cannot be said about having enough food for people in need.
The charity works with 13 restaurants and supermarkets, which donate their leftover food – in perfect condition – to Refood Albufeira, which then delivers the food to those who need it the most.
Apart from its usual activity, the charity also carries out special campaigns such as ‘Refeição para mais um’ (Meal for one more), which has challenged families in Albufeira to cook an extra meal for someone in need.
Refood Albufeira also carries out a sponsor programme during the Christmas season, when it asks children from the families it supports to write a letter to Santa Claus. Anyone willing to help can then offer to buy one of the gifts included in the letter.
For every Refood branch, the goal is about more than just preventing food waste but also creating a “more just, caring and sustainable society”.
Launched during the pandemic
Refood Albufeira was launched in mid-2020 in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, following the closure of the Algoz-Tunes branch.
Many of the volunteers from that branch came together to create this new branch in Albufeira, but the process was far from easy given the restrictions that were in place at the time.
“It was very hard for us to get to know each other,” explained Agualusa, adding that volunteers had to wear masks and follow guidelines which made their work even more complicated.
With people having lost their jobs, businesses or having seen their income reduced due to the effects of the pandemic, there was naturally a substantial number of families seeking support.
“There were rarely any days that we were not hard at work,” the Refood Albufeira coordinator said.
“There was one particular case that affected me, which was when I heard a child who had just seen one of the volunteers arriving with food telling his parents – ‘look, it’s the yoghurt man’. There are people who do not have the same quality of life as most do,” he alerted, adding that there is a side to Albufeira – the Algarve’s best known tourist town – which many do not know about.
“In the summer, almost everyone can find a job. But the situation is different in the winter. There is a huge discrepancy between the two seasons”.
Nonetheless, Refood Albufeira does not limit itself to simply delivering food. It also tries to help its beneficiaries seek jobs and new opportunities.
“Everyone goes through rough patches,” he said. “We have already been able to help find jobs for five people. We have also had situations of beneficiaries who came to us and said they no longer needed help, which is gratifying to see.”
Refood Albufeira has also played a role in helping Ukrainian refugees who have arrived in the Algarve.
How to become a volunteer?
If you would like to become a volunteer for Refood Albufeira, you can contact the branch by telephone or email or visit their centre in Guia (no 97 on Rua Joaquim Martins Rodrigues, in front of Café Joaquim da Mota).
You can also follow the charity’s latest news on its Facebook page (www.facebook.com/refood.albufeira).
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