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Meeting of 26th September 2013

Meeting of 26th September 2013

Our Rotary Club’s good friend, Father Claudio, came to visit us again accompanied by his fellow priest, Father Josef. Father Claudio came to update our Club members on the present situation for the poorest people in Marbella. He spoke before lunch.  He and Father Josef were unable to join us for lunch because they had another commitment later in the afternoon.

Father Claudio started by telling us that in 2012 his church and Caritas had helped 2100 local, very poor and needy people but between January and June 2013 they had already helped more than 1238 people. The Caritas office in the church hall used to open only on Mondays but it is now open on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays and they are seeing approximately 40 people, with all sorts of problems, each morning.  In the whole of 2012 these organisations spent 41,000 Euros but by June 2013 they had already spent 24,000 Euros in providing people with the things that they most need; whether it is food, clothes, help with housing and utilities bills, legal advice, medicines or glasses for children. Their aim is to show people that they are not alone with their problems and that, through Christians, God helps everyone.

The church spends the money it receives in trying to help needy people of all religions and nationalities, regardless of their legal status in Spain, with such things as basic food, clothes (particularly warm clothes in winter),  medication, baby milk, school books and replacing broken glasses for kids. Caritas spends about 1,500 Euros to buy approximately 1,000 kilos of food each month and accepts donations of clothes from many sources.

The local branches of the Red Cross and Social Services send people to the church who they cannot help. The church will help to pay 100-200 Euros towards overdue electricity and gas bills so that the people will not have these supplies cut off and also helps for up to 3 months with up to 3-400 Euros of rent for unemployed people whose social security benefit has expired, so that their families will not be made homeless.  They try to assist families from abroad, who have been Marbella without employment for as much as 2 years and used up all their savings, to obtain air tickets to return to their home countries. Frequently, these people come from S. America – Paraguay, Ecuador and Argentina and the cost of returning home is very high. There are very few domestic jobs now in the Marbella area, as few people are employing help for housework and gardening because of the poor economy. The foreign workers do not have family in Spain to help them when times are bad.

This year Caritas has re-organised its offices in the church hall but they still have some more work to do. They have cleaned up the interior and painted the inside. They have bought screens to divide the large space into several small offices so that up to 7 people can be seen privately at any one time. Each office has a different role. The 1st assesses the problem then passes the person on to the correct office for help whether it is with clothes, food, money or legal help.

Local residents sometimes express concern that the people coming Father Claudio and asking for help are not really needy but Father Claudio pointed out that the Church has to trust people who ask for help. People must humble themselves to go to the church and ask for food and to do this they must truly be in need. He gives out basic food like spaghetti and milk for the kids – people cannot be allowed to go hungry!

Father Claudio asked if we, at our Rotary club, can give more help to provide food and clothes. Winter is coming and some of the needy people sleep outside and need to have warm clothes. He asked that we each, in our own religion, pray for these poor people and maybe we and God together can give them more help. We should pray that God will help us to help the needy.

Father Claudio then said that he had time to answer some questions:

Methchild:  Will you collect toys for Three Kings Day again this year?

Father Claudio: Yes! The children don’t understand that they are very poor and we must give them something to play with because they are children.

Campbell:  a) Can you use old reading glasses that many of us have in our homes?
                   b) Is there a way of buying food in bulk so that you get better value.

Father Claudio:  a) Possibly we can use old glasses. Usually we hep to buy new glasses for kids who have broken theirs.
                           b) It is not easy to buy food in bulk. Carlos of Bancosol gets some food free but it is always close to its ‘use-by’ date and we have to distribute this very quickly.

Alfred: Maybe this is not the right way to help people. People are not helped by giving them things. We must help them to help themselves.

Father Claudio: This morning 20 Moroccan people came for food and clothes. I cannot tell them ‘You need to organise your mind’ when they are hungry and need food now. We need to help them now. Only God can help them in the long term.

Laurie: How do you prioritise when there are so many people in need?

Father Claudio: We try to help each person with something and offer to pray when people ask for big things. We would like to prepare people to work but we do not have access to a factory.

Nina: Do you have a way to check if people have been to another charity already and received help?

Father Claudio:  In Marbella we have good control. Everyone who is helped by the local charities is entered on a computer and we can check. In Malaga there is no control.

Vicki: What nationality are most of the people that you help?

Father Claudio: The largest number are Moroccans, then South Americans from Paraguay, Equador and Argentina.

Vicki: Is the situation worse in Morocco than in Marbella?

Father Claudio: Yes; we believe so. We know that some Moroccans take the clothes, that they obtain from the church, to Morocco and sell them but we should not judge them because this is the way that they get food for their families.

Michael F: Is help given in Spain only for people who have legal Spanish papers. Shouldn’t these Moroccans stay in Morocco and get help there?

Father Claudio: We do not discriminate whether people have papers or not. If people need help we do not discriminate by nationality, religion or legality. We must listen to people and tell them that they are not alone. We must pray for them and not judge them. They are people like us who are having bad times.

Lunch was ready to be served and Father Claudio needed to leave for his next appointment so we said ‘Hasta Luego’ and that we will see him again soon.