PORTUGAL: Help continues for migrant and refugee families
Salesian SolSal program provides a range of support initiatives for migrant and refugee families
(MissionNewswire) The Salesian Center in Lisbon, Portugal, created the SolSal (Salesian Social Service) in 2008 to provide support to vulnerable children and older youth, along with their families, to promote their well-being and autonomy. Currently, the organization serves 114 families, 28 percent of whom are migrant families from 10 different countries. There are also three refugee families that came to Portugal as part of a refugee relocation program within the European Union.
“Even if our participation in the refugee program ended in March 2018, we continue to accompany them as we do with many other migrant families,” said Alexandra Constantino, head of SolSal Lisbon and coordinator of the Salesian Social Service at the national level, together with the Salesian Father Álvaro Lago.
SolSal is one of the entities that adhered to the Refugee Support Platform, a civil society initiative to organize the reception of refugees according to a model of community integration, rather than in refugee centers. All of the children and youth attend school either in local Salesian schools or in public institutions.
The families live in houses provided by the Salesian Foundation. Only one of the adults is currently out of work while all the others are employed, full-time or part-time. Everyone also has easy access to medical visits and consultations.
The SolSal initiative provides these families baskets of basic necessities and meals. In addition, these families have access to family counseling programs, psychological support, parental education activities, and cooking and finance workshops.
For immigrant families, SolSal provides support in accessing public administration services. One of the greatest difficulties for these families is accessing the support provided by the state, as well as dealing with the renewal of identification documents and residence permits. To further help new immigrants coming to the country, SolSal provides support with social inclusion and gives families access to Portuguese lessons and conversation sessions for language learning.
The pandemic has imposed greater difficulties on the SolSal initiative, but Salesians have continued their work, modifying to safely meet the needs of families they serve.
“Our biggest victory was continuing with the doors open, despite all the changes we had to make in the functioning of the service,” said a psychologist working with SolSal. “We have seen many success stories, including Antónia Andrade, a Cape Verdean woman who started at SolSal eight years ago, and today, is a volunteer who helps in the collection and distribution of goods to families in need.”
Photo: João Ramalho