By Dominique Dement
Today was a beautiful day in Alicante. On our visit to a social services center within the Cathedral, Caritas Parroquial Nuestra Senora de la Misericordia, we learned of the many services they provide for individuals within the community. They provide what they can to the homeless of Alicante, as well as for children who have possibly been neglected, living in poverty, or potentially heading down a path of violence. Helping around 200 families, with food, medication, and shelter, this agency is open all hours of the day to offer assistance at any time. Battling the stigma that exists around the homeless community, this church holds the value that they would rather help someone who may be abusing the assistance, rather than refuse to help someone who may really need the assistance. It is so important, especially as social workers, to be able to set aside any biases and break the stigma to better provide services for our clients.
In addition to providing services for the homeless population, they provide many services for children as well. For example, Schools for Peace is a service that helps children living in low socioeconomic areas. The purpose is to teach peace, while stemming away from the violence and hardships in their lives. With a long-term goal to get these kids into a University, inclusive to the high rate of immigration, anyone is able to receive these services, regardless of whether or not they practice Catholic faith. No one is turned away. The Schools for Peace program also offers a summer camp in Madrid which includes kids from Valencia, Madrid, and Alicante. As a former summer camp counselor of four years, I firmly believe that camp can change one’s life. Bringing kids together who may have similar obstacles creates a safe space where kids can learn and grow, providing the kindness, love, and support that many of these kids are lacking in their lives. The majority of these services are provided through volunteers. In addition, there are lawyers and social workers who also volunteer their time to assist with the access of rights and services.