My second voluntary week did just start here in Lisbon at Espaço Âncora that literally means anchor place and is meant to be a low-threshold drop-in place for people in vulnerable situation. During my short time here, I have already witnessed the importance that Âncora holds for many. It offers a safe place during the day, breakfast, clothes and many other necessitate all to needle exchange but most importantly it is a familiar place where you are seen, heard and respected. One of the central ethical values of the practice is dignity or dignidade as in portuguese.
Many of the people at Âncora are combating homelessness. Homelessness especially in Lisbon has been a visible news topic during this month since a homeless woman did abandon her new-born in a trash can. Homelessness makes life hard and can make people turn into desperate solutions. I hope that this tragic event would not focus on blaming the individual but instead would turn the gaze on the state’s responsibility to secure affordable housing solutions, employment opportunities and social services.
Last week the daily newspaper Diário de Notícias did publish an article of homelessness at the same time mentioning the non-governmental organisation Crescer to which Âncora belongs to. Âncora as well as Crescer, that I am going to write more about further one, has an important role to play in order to combat not just homelessness but especially inequality. I hope to share day-to-day happenings in Âncora as well as discussing more wider social questions.
The past year is gone and we have already been getting into the new year of 2020. I look at the past year at Espaço Âncora with lot of gratitude and warmth. I felt warmly welcomed not just from the colleagues but also overall from the beneficiaries side. Our Christmas celebration was especially one of the last years highlights.
The month of January was a time of getting more familiar with the people that come to Espaço. I did share many interesting conversations especially with the people that more frequently visits the place. The hardships of living on the streets, finding a decent work and an apartment where common topics not just at Espaço but also in the portugues media during the beginning of the year.
During the month of February, we did start on the request of the beneficiaries the weekly meetings. These meetings have many functions. One of them is to pass information from Espaços side but also more importantly to function as a platform for the beneficiaries to discuss for them important topics, share information and life events. Quite often did I find myself also in the middle of a discussion on politics. I have to say that these meetings where never boring in any way.
We did also start together during the time of February with the beneficiaries the planning of short- and long-term activities at Espaço.
February was also an interesting month in other ways. We did have loads of visitors from abroad wanting to get more familiar with the goals, methods and overall philosophy of Espaço Âncora. Activism and art-based practices stood up as the central pillars of the work at Espaço in these encounters.
February was of course nothing without the yearly celebration of Carnival. We did throw a party as the beneficiaries planned it. There was some sweets, arts and crafts and a good feeling in the air on The day.
Quite soon after the Carnival fever did cool down did we enter in to another unknown time – the pandemic. The doors of Espaço Âncora have been closed for a time while I am writing this testimony. Me as other volunteers are at the moment at home trying in this way contribute to the work of other professionals that are combating covid-19 in the frontlines. Lisbon has during this time shown itself from a distance – a distance that is for many as myself a privilege that many people cannot afford to take.