Together, we are more
Article from the Asociación Equipo Solidaridad,
Province of Spain.
During the mid-1980s, the Congregation arrived in Badajoz, Spain, to challenge the high levels of social exclusion present there. The sisters partnered with laypeople and other Church groups to establish the Asociación Equipo Solidaridad (Solidarity Partnership Team), a non-profit NGO that works with vulnerable groups to provide specific support to access work and actively participate in society, each with their distinct identities.
This social and employment inclusion project for excluded or at-risk groups focuses on promoting values that favor interculturality and developing training activities that promote access to society and employment, whilst respecting the diversity of those receiving support.
Currently, about 60 women from different countries, cultures, languages, and religions participate in the project's activities... working together to develop and empower themselves. One of these women is Patricia, from Peru. In reply to Maria Luisa, one of the project's teachers who greets the women every day, Patricia asks the question: "When will classes begin again and when can we hug freely without restrictions?"
During the pandemic, united in the face of the virus to push ahead with life plans towards new horizons, the association had to adapt to the unique situation by delivering the contents of the workshops in different ways, as follows:
- Training and work, through video conferences hosted by one of the project's participants, offering support to put into practice what they had learned about caring for dependents, and providing a space to resolve questions and doubts.
- Support and capacity strengthening for the children's workshops, including online storytelling.
- Health and enjoying your city and surroundings, online and through videos.
- Tolerance and culture, celebrating important days, traditions or personal beliefs (Easter, Ramadan, Mother's Day, Father's Day, international days, etc.).
Some of the women who attend the activities and workshops described.
In particular, the team focused on:
LISTENING to their worries and troubles, fears and uncertainties, hopes and struggles... which have increased due to quarantine and isolation, lack of physical and face-to-face contact, job difficulties (on-site accommodation with challenging work environments), lack of cash-in-hand work (gypsy backgrounds) or hourly-paid domiciliary care work, being far from their families (many migrants), being unable to support their loved ones who are suffering because of the pandemic in their places of origin, etc.
INFORMING about COVID-19 protection and security measures, procedures in place, access to available support, etc.
EMPOWERING through daily WhatsApp messages, put in place during the pandemic. These have become a new means to boost mental and emotional strength through messages offering encouragement and hope, and videos and music to pass the time.
ACCOMPANYING their vulnerable situations, which have been intensified by the social crisis brought about by the pandemic in the face of evictions, refusal of vital support, legal residency status, isolation at home without being able to work or doing so with the fear of being fined (especially migrants), sharing job application links, writing employer references, etc.
STRENGTHENING support for mothers in their education and training, and for children with their homework; and networking to provide rapid and thorough responses to their needs. Concretely living out our values of equality, liberty, tolerance, inclusion, global solidarity, commitment, etc.
PROTECTING their rights by seeking access to fair rents, home improvements, health and medical support, secure employment rights, and obtaining or renewing their legal residency status.
DEVELOPING content of the planned workshops (distance working, videos, etc.) with the program's beneficiaries contributing to the development of the content; protection protocols against COVID-19 for when in-person work resumes; new responses to identified new needs, such as reconciliation work for women attending the project and urban summer camps for single mothers; shared spaces connected to the green economy that improves employability and healthy eating, the development of inclusive and responsible citizenship, environmental care and sustainability, etc.
PROMOTING family and friend bonds by creating safe spaces to reveal emotions and offer mutual care and support. And equal opportunities, for example, by facilitating internet access: for children to carry out their homework, as many cannot afford internet access, and do not have computers and/or cannot print the assignments that teachers send them as homework; for women to carry out tasks online, apply for jobs, send CVs, various administrative tasks, etc.
PREPARING their return by protecting project volunteers and participants.
CELEBRATING, yes, it is also a time to celebrate, by drawing energy from this adversity. Celebrating everything that this pandemic is teaching us, to create the best version of ourselves. Celebrate the lives of all those who have passed away and for so many sacrifices, without forgetting what has been learned: Together, we are more.
In addition, in association with this project, a team of two sisters and two lay people carry out an empowerment project in the same city, offering training for employment in the textile industry. A further 20 people at risk of exclusion access this project to learn job skills through dressmaking, design and fashion workshops. The project also offers daycare workshops for children between the ages of 3 and 10 while their mothers attend the project's activities. However, these children's workshops have been suspended for health and safety reasons since the pandemic began. In 2014, this project received a national award for best practice.
These are the two empowerment projects for vulnerable adults that the Congregation is involved in in Badajoz, Spain. They are projects with a holistic approach, based on human rights that during the pandemic have embraced their work with women in various ways to support them during their daily struggle.