Rotary Club’s Swedish visitor

Porches International Rotary Club supports a number of charities, including the Bom Samaritano children’s home in Alvor, and during a lunch held on July 12 the members of the Rotary Club welcomed Margarida Castanhito, the technical director of the home,and their speaker Britt-Marie Ström, the project manager from BarnSamariten, Sweden.

Britt-Marie explained how her father, Tore Kratz, played a major role in the setting up of the Bom Samaritano children’s home when he came to Portugal in 1987 and persuaded the Portimão Câmara to give him some land and started building work for the home in 1989 which was then completed in 1991.

The funding to make the home possible came through BarnSamariten, the Swedish charity foundation set up in 1980, based on Christian values and the United Nation’s declaration on children’s rights and founded by Tore Kratz.

Britt-Marie Ström said: “As a child, my father was the victim of abuse and set out to help other children who had suffered and, for the first half of his life, my father was definitely not a saint. Actually he was quite the opposite, spending 20 years in prison for blowing up banks and post-offices and drug offences!” 

However, the life of Tore Kratz changed dramatically in 1964 when a religious meeting in prison later led to his conversion.

“Months later he was granted a special pardon by the King of Sweden and released,” said Britt-Marie.

She added: “He had little education but he was a clever man and invented a children’s building toy that sold very well in Sweden.

“He refused to sell the rights and in 1978 our family moved to Argentina to be missionaries. My father started a toy factory in a children’s orphanage and used the income from the toys to help the children.”

It was in Argentina that he was inspired by the street-children everywhere and remembering his own childhood, he was convinced that he and his wife must do more for children in need, so in 1980 they returned to Sweden to set up BarnSamariten.

Today the work of the charity continues to help children across the world and they have ongoing projects in Brazil, Zambia and Ethiopia including initiatives to help feed street children, set up mobile health centres and provide care for orphaned children.

Britt-Marie stressed to members of the Rotary that BarnSamariten is still a small charity with less than 20 staff and they try to work with the local people and co-workers to start up new projects that can then be self-supporting, she added: “Everyone is capable of changing their life and the lives of others… like my father did.”

An article about the work of BarnSamariten will be featured in the September issue of the Algarve Goodlife Magazine.