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Charity Campaign in Fincas CALVET – Sant’Egidio Community

Fincas CALVET continues helping the most disadvantaged people through charity actions with a big social impact.

Fincas Calvet has taken a stance since its origins, in 1951, and has made a difference through its innovative real estate business model and a corporative culture promoted by the new president, Lluís Calvet, which has conveyed to its staff and all the people related to the company the importance of positively impacting on society, through several social initiatives and actions.

Fincas Calvet wants to show its support to the groups most affected by the current economic and social situation resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic carrying out supportive action aimed at the people most hit by it. Fincas Calvet puts all its effort into raising €25,000, which was donated to buy 720 sets of a wide variety of food and essential products. On June 30 we delivered the first 180 sets of food to Sant’Egidio community in Barcelona, a Christian international community located in more than 70 countries around the world, exclusively managed by volunteers and well-known for both helping the poor in every city they are and their work for peace.

We are going to make three more deliveries in the following months until we achieve the 720 sets of food. 600 will be handed over to 4-or-5-member families and 120 to homeless people.

18 tons of food in total will be delivered to more than 3,000 highly needy people, showing once again how Fincas Calvet regularly collaborates with third sector and charity organisations. One of the most special ones for us is Doctors without Borders, with whom we have collaborated for some years now.

18 tons of food in total will be delivered to more than 3,000 highly needy people, showing once again how Fincas Calvet regularly collaborates with third sector and charity organisations. One of the most special ones for us is Doctors without Borders, with whom we have collaborated for some years now.
We would also invite you to read a recent interview with Raquel Sancho, coordinator of services for the homeless in Sant’Egidio Community. It is really interesting and moving.

Interview with Raquel Sancho, Sant’Egidio Community in Barcelona.

Coordinator of the services to “street friends”.

Before starting with the questions related to you, I wanted to ask how you would describe the current situation of poverty in Catalonia. Is there still a long way to go?

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the geography of poverty within our cities. These days we have seen how many people with bad job conditions or foreigners who are not regulated or had no contract became quickly unprotected —some were fired and most of them had problems to meet their families’ food needs. We thought we could keep being healthy in an ill society, but this is impossible, because all humans sail on the same boat.

I would like to highlight another kind of poverty in our society: the one that hits the elderly. Most of the victims during the pandemic have been elderly people and those who live in nursing homes were denied the access to hospitals, which led to the idea that their lives can be sacrificed to the benefit of others. We cannot lose the principle of equal treatment and the universal right to healthcare assistance that we have achieved in the last decades. Loneliness has become a punishment for the elderly, like a second pandemic. We have to achieve their right to stay always at home: they’ll live longer and better.

What is Sant’Egidio Community and how did it start?

Sant’Egidio is a very peculiar “international subject”. It is not an NGO specialised in social services or mediations. It is a Christian community founded by Andrea Riccardi in Rome, 1968. Sant’Egidio is known for its work with the poorest in every city and for its work for peace. After many years, it has become a universal fraternity of communities located in more than 70 countries in the world, firstly in Europe but now also in America, Asia and especially Africa.

Prayers, service to the poorest, work for peace and interfaith dialogue are some of its key features. Our service to the poor is for free (we are all volunteers) and based on a specific and personal friendship. Poor people are not users for us, or a number, or someone to assist. They are friends, family who we share things with, who we help.

What is the profile of the people who come to Sant’Egidio? Has it changed over the last few years?

In Sant’Egidio we have never turned our back on anyone or specialized only in helping one kind of person. Our main concern is to stop in front of the half-dead person we find nowadays in our city. I am talking about the homeless people on the street who we provide some dinner, we invite to our community kitchen or we welcome and offer some guidance. We also visit and keep company to the elderly who are home alone or in nursing homes. We provide language lessons in our language and culture school to those refugees who come to us and need assistance. For children and teenagers, the school of peace is the answer. We offer our friendship and support to all of them, so that they can fit in our society again and find a new family.

By constantly reading the signs of time we have found new answers. We have been recently working to solve the problem with the elderly and to help families, so that the elderly can stay in their homes. The proposal of the humanitarian corridors has been an answer to the deaths in the Mediterranean and a way to propose a legal and safe way to get to Europe.

Which services do you offer and what makes you different from other similar organisations?

People who provide services in Sant’Egidio give away their time, sensitivity and knowledge. And what I mean is that free is not opposed to excellence. In Sant’Egidio the poor do not get the leftovers, but the best. That is why we work hard to provide services with excellence and person-to-person connection as key features.

As I said, the people we come across have a name, a story, we know them. I’d say this is both the weakness and strength of the community: not having any economic interest, not even regarding the institutions, but at the same time having the strength to know these people and their reality from the inside. Besides, Sant’Egidio constitutes a single community in the world. We study and experience our reflections with the other communities, and we share experiences and answers to face the different realities of poverty.

This feature has allowed us to have more accurate global and local perspectives and it has also allowed us to react from the very first moment to the COVID-19 crisis. In Africa we had already experienced emergencies derived from pandemics and we knew the right prevention and action protocols.

How do you think your daily life in Sant’Egidio has impacted your personal life?

I met Sant’Egidio Community when I was young, and I was shocked by their personal relation with the poor. Their members called them “friends”. This changed my concept of friendship. They were taking their lives seriously, looking for answers to their problems, helping them in the right way and for free, nothing in return. With time, I realised I was receiving much more than giving. The connection I was experiencing every day with the children of the street in Barceloneta or La Mina, with the homeless, with the elderly, was changing my feelings, breaking my prejudices, opening my narrow mind, filling my life with new hopes and dreams that I had never had before. With the hope of changing their lives, my heart was changing too. My personal conversion is not over, but open to keep on looking for answers in such a changeable society.

Another thing that affected me was that in here we always do things together, and together is how we have learned over the years to respond to many situations that we have come across. We cannot face such a big and complex reality as our city on our own. Together we do not only look at our city, but at the whole world! And together we feel we can do something. Getting to know Sant’Egidio made me leave my home behind, my customs, my laziness, and open up to the reality of my city by gaining awareness and responsibility regarding the most fragile and vulnerable people. In this sense, it has been fundamental to find allies and travel companions for this adventure. That is why we invite a lot of people, to make them feel questioned by other people’s needs and make them react to change it.

How is Sant’Egidio Community funded?

Sant’Egidio is funded thanks to the personal support of the people and organisations who collaborate. We are certain that everyone has something to offer, from the same poor people who help poorer people to those who invest their time or make donations. Almost all the aids we get have a direct impact to our services to the poor. We do not use them to pay the staff or for management issues. This allows us to deal with the institutions freely and the donations have a direct effect on the service.

For instance, during this COVID-19 crisis two things happened. On the one hand, there were people giving away their time, elderly people making masks for our “street friends”, unemployed cooks who came to help us with the meals, people who have made donations. On the other hand, some companies made donations of products (basically food and hygiene), etc. A particularly important donation in this second group, and that is why I don’t mind mentioning it, was €25,000 donated by Fincas Calvet, from Barcelona, which will be spent on 720 sets of essential products. Thanks to them, more than 3,000 people (families and homeless) will benefit from this necessary aid.

The donations you get are really great for people and families in need, since the money is used to buy food and essential products, but do you think these same actions may also be necessary for the people or businesses who make them?

There are many fake myths, for instance, thinking that homeless people are homeless because they want to be or they want to take advantage. The poor are not better or worse than anyone else. They are just poor. The COVID-19 crisis has brought to light a reality that we had forgotten: nobody can save themselves. An individualistic society or a society with isolated people or outsiders is not sustainable. We need each other.

Therefore in Sant’Egidio friendship and solidarity have always gone hand in hand. Building a fraternal city requires knitting a friendship and solidarity network that can sustain the most fragile, such as the elderly, or those who feel lonely. It is not only an economic problem. We feel there is a need for social gatherings and personal attention to defeat loneliness and isolation. We all need to be loved, if possible within a family. Our community becomes this shelter for many poor people in our city.

We are rich, and when we look around and we notice the negative impact of the economic crisis on the people and families, the loneliness of the elderly, the consequences of the little resources for the newcomers, we have a growing feeling of debt. And then the evidence: there is more joy in giving than in receiving. We are happy when we forget about ourselves and we meet and help the others.

A good example that I already mentioned in the previous question is, again, Fincas Calvet, a real estate company which is deeply rooted in Barcelona. The satisfaction of carrying out this kind of charity action is part of their own corporate culture.

Linked to the previous question: you obviously got, and get, a lot of support. I would like you to pick one or some of the cases that have impacted you or shocked you the most and tell us why.

There’s one kind of support that is still shocking for me, which is the one that comes from the homeless. On many occasions, when there’s lack of food, many of them give their meal to other people or tell you where to find people with more needs. With time we realise that for many of our friends friendship is the most important meal.

It has always struck me how in many occasions we have what the poor ask for: a sleeping bag, a pair of shoes that fitted for a barefoot woman who was in our canteen or a wheelchair for a stranger who came in with his own one broken. During the pandemic we even provided housing for a homeless woman and she is now sharing the space with an older woman who she takes care of. Some call it chance, I call it providence: it provides us with what we have to give.

During the pandemic there was also a girl sharing her space with two other girls. This girl contacted Sant’Egidio because she wanted to help the homeless. When people were asked to be in lockdown at home, some people had no home, and she said she could not sit back and do nothing about it. Right before coming to the community kitchen, she called, in tears. Her room-mates didn’t let her leave because they said that the poor would infect her. It was tough, but two months later she was able to go back to help our “street friends” in the community kitchen.

All this solidarity and altruism is equally mutual when what we get are economic or product donations, such as the €25,000 that will become 720 sets of essential food, because they are a priceless support as much or more important than the other. And they always bring hope, because you suddenly think about all the people to whom you will soon deliver all these products by hand.

How can donors help in addition to offering economic contribution?

There are many ways to help. You only need to want it and show availability. During the pandemic we have acted responsibly and creatively and, in addition to the in-person meetings to deliver food, some people made masks, others cooked, etc. Some people who collected food in front of supermarkets for the humanitarian centre. Some people visit the elderly in their houses or nursing homes, others write letters or call elderly people who live alone. You can help our language and culture school or correspond with a prisoner in the US on death row. You can donate food, money, etc. No one is so poor they cannot help a poorer person.

To sum up, we would like you to make a reflection on what these years heading Sant’Egidio have meant to you and to give a message to both those families in need and those who want to help through you.

I realised that by helping the others I am helping myself ‎—it helps me not to be always focused on myself and my stuff. Individualism is the illness of our times. This virus has exposed that we are all more vulnerable. But my vulnerability is not a reason to shut myself out, to feel the victim of a difficult situation or to push aside those who are more vulnerable than me. We are all vulnerable, some more, some less. We can all do a lot. We can all make this weakness a strength with humility, creativity and intelligence and by offering our skills, time and help to the others to build the city of coexistence together, a city where those who help and those who are helped are the same thing. Now more than ever we have to raise awareness and build supportive friendship nets to protect the most fragile and vulnerable. There is a huge need to humanise life in our city, and to do so every person’s choice is a key factor.

Raquel Sancho
Head of the Sant’Egidio Community

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