From the ground: Caritas coordinator. Spain. EN


COVID and pain

Pilar Millán Núñez-Cortés
Parish Caritas Coordinator

My name is Pilar and I am very lucky, like many others, to be a Caritas volunteer. In my case, for about 13 years I have participated in the welcome of the Parish of Nuestra Señora del Espino, which serves a community of Claretian Missionaries. This Parish is located in the barrio of Tetuan, one of the most affected by precarious employment and unemployment for many years. The territory to which the families that the parish Caritas welcomes belong, extends through a labyrinth of streets and various houses, including social housing, in which families of all types live, most of the times crowded in a room that they rent for abusive prices. The families are of different nationalities, predominantly in this order: Latin Americans, Moroccans, Spaniards, Roma, Romanians and, lately, many families in search of a future and fleeing their countries of origin for humanitarian reasons.

Since the reception, it has been observed that the evolution of needs among the population served and who always seek to be heard, has been increasing gradually and continuously. Already during the year 2019, an influx of families was observed that had never before needed help to cover basic needs. It was almost twice as many as in previous years, especially to request food. The reasons were a latent economic crisis that led to very precarious employment, with salaries that did not allow them to live with sufficient dignity, as well as the underground economy fostered by an abusive society, or, in many cases, by the employer's inability to sustain social security, or being people in an irregular administrative situation (what we all know as lack of papers). Finally, very important has been the arrival of families seeking political asylum for humanitarian reasons, mentioned above. As a whole, then, the population with basic needs has increased and has come to the reception of our Parish.

The need for food has grown exponentially, but the worst was yet to come with the covid-19 pandemic: all those waiting for documentation to allow them to work have seen the paperwork come to a standstill. Moreover, as many of them tell us, "what difference does it make if there is no employment at all". All those who worked in the informal economy have lost their jobs and even their employers, older people in general. Many others are waiting for official financial aid that arrives slowly, and ALL are very worried about their debts that are growing month by month. Although their roofs and supplies are untouchable at the moment, they know that the time will come when they will not be able to cope with such debts.

Caritas has continued its work of caring for and finding alternatives to feed the families. It also continues its accompaniment, although with more difficulty, through the telephone and the computer. Our work, which basically consists of approaching the most vulnerable, to transmit them confidence and hope, is logically made difficult. There is neither the look nor the smile that encourages communication. There is only the voice and the patience of each volunteer who talks to them.  Even so, it is amazing how serene and confident they are when they take our calls and how grateful they are for them.

Right now, we have a lot of hard work ahead of us, trying to alleviate the need for something as basic as food. We are aware that it is necessary to look for imaginative solutions that allow these families to maintain their dignity, above all. The immediate solution, a bag with basic foodstuffs, leads the families to a state of indignation, surprise, sadness, resignation... 

It is also a time to reflect on the role of believers in a society that stigmatizes and locks up an entire generation, which has sustained a country's economy and its own families; a society that sees how another generation cannot work, washing its hands by providing long waits for food as a solution. Furthermore, what does this society condemn our children to, while on the one hand it claims equality, and on the other it takes measures that will lead to a cultural gap between them? Will we try to change anything?

In addition to meeting needs of all kinds and therefore having sufficient means to do so, we must bear in mind that the situation cannot be sustained for long. We will need all our imagination and our capacity to LOVE and avoid becoming just another NGO, with all that is necessary to keep us in what we are and have always been, the loving face of Christ in this world, fully involved in it.

                                                                                   Pilar Millán Núñez-Cortés
Caritas. N. S. El Espino Parish. Madrid
Parish Caritas Coordinator

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