THE FUTURE of various social projects for the elderly and children at risk in the Greater Lisbon area could be in jeopardy if funding dries up. The Salvation Army (SA) in Portugal runs a children’s home (Novo Mundo) and two homes for the elderly (Lar Marinel and Nosso Lar) in the Sintra region, which have been funded generously for the past two years by Sintra Câmara. However, the contract is due to expire shortly and the câmara has indicated it may not be able to renew it.
Other projects run by the SA in Portugal include two day centres for the elderly in Porto and Lisbon, and a night shelter for the homeless in Xabregas, but these are said to be secure.
The Resident visited Lar Marinel recently, which is co-run by Major Arlette Reichenbach Martins. The home opened in December 1987 and houses 50 residents, 71 per cent of which are women. It has its own infirmary and even a physiotherapy gym. The residents pay according to their means, but some are funded entirely by the sponsorship that SA raises.
The centre for children at risk, Novo Mundo, is a relatively small project, housing 14 children
aged between birth and 12. “Many of the children come to us from the courts and/or the department of Social Security,” explained Major Lynette Green. “The kind funding we’ve had from Sintra Câmara is coming to an end and they have indicated to us that they may not be able to renew the contract, so we’re looking for new sponsors.” It costs Sintra Câmara around 2,500 euros a month to run the children’s home.
Major Green made an appeal: “We have had difficulty supporting this project and any funding from other groups would be most useful.”
Funding for homeless projects
can be difficult
Fortunately, the homeless shelter at Xabregas is not considered at risk. It is funded by Lisbon Câmara and run by the SA. “The câmara has indicated that it is very proud of the shelter and considers it to be one of its most important social projects,” she said. “However, raising money for homeless projects can be difficult, too, because people have this misguided idea that, because they are not elderly or children, they must be fully responsible for what has happened to them.”
The night shelter is a project that caters for 75 homeless people and is usually full during the cold winter months. The users are often alcoholics, drug addicts or simply people who have fallen on extreme financial hardship. “We help these people with their dependencies, through drug and alcohol rehabilitation programmes, as well as helping them to acquire new skills and get jobs.
Cases of child abuse must be addressed
All of the SA projects use the services of social workers, doctors, counsellors and child psychologists. In the case of Novo Mundo, many children come from tragic backgrounds, such as broken families. “In some cases, the children have either been abandoned or suffered physical or mental abuse from their parents. Some may have been victims of sexual abuse,” explained Sandra Martins, director of SA social services in Portugal.
The subject of parents who are abusers is not an easy one to confront or understand, but extreme social and financial hardship, alcoholism and domestic violence are pointed as some of the reasons. Also, if the parents themselves were sexually or physically abused, this can lead to the parent abusing their children.
In particular cases, when indicated by the courts, identities have to be changed and the location of the children’s home kept secret to protect the children at risk.
The SA has launched an appeal account and companies and individuals wishing to make a donation can do so through Caixa Geral Depósitos (CGD-NIB 003521690001434783055)