Proyecto Hombre

By Darlene Lopez

It was an unprecedented start to Wednesday morning in Alicante, Spain! Just when I thought that I witnessed the most beauteous ocean views, I was once again captivated by Alicante’s Mediterranean coastline during my ride to Proyecto Hombre (Project Man). As the car drove through narrow roads surrounded by green pastures, my imagination wandered what the physical building and the vicinity of Proyecto Hombre Alicante looked like and  what their occupational therapy service entailed.

Needless to say, before I joined the USF Toros en Espana journey, I had a vague understanding of social work. Being that I am a Humanities & Cultural Studies major, my knowledge of social workers was that they were employed by local government and dealt with only helping low income families. Now that I had to honor to partake in this course, A Comparative Study of Socio-Cultural Context of People’s Health in Barcelona and Alicante, Spain I & II, I gained a wholesome understanding of international social work.

Nonetheless, our visit to Proyecto Hombre Alicante was informative and interactive thanks to Encarni, an experienced social worker. I enjoyed her thoroughness and it was encouraging to hear her speak with so much passion about Proyecto Hombre Alicante. She emphasized that Proyecto Hombre is a national, non-profit, non-partisan, and non-denominational organization in Spain with 26 regional centers throughout the country including two in Alicante. Their humanist perspective was indigenized from methods used in USA and Italy. Similarly, Proyecto Hombre focuses on three main scopes of intervention for adults with problems of addiction: behavioral, cognitive, and affective (dynamic). Unlike other addiction treatment centers, Proyecto Hombre applies a therapeutic educative method that promotes the personal autonomy, the growth of individual responsibility, and the capacity to make decisions and return to be member assets of society.

Proyecto Hombre’s practical approach is complemented by their ecological approach at Alicante’s facility. Lydia, the director of PHA, gave us a tour inside and outside the vicinity and I noticed many wonderful things and services provided to the residential patients.  I was particularly  impressed by their multidisciplinary team training and the holistic environment they created for their patients. PHA’s atmosphere felt clean, safe, and most importanly open-spaced. A Spain-born British client gave his personal account of a prior experience with a treatment center in London and how it was unsuccessful for him because he would go to a clinic and meet with a psychologist about every two weeks not being enough but ever since he enrolled with PHA he has had a life changing journey. He even suggested others stay to separate themselves from the toxic ties of everyday life. For further information please browse their website at:

Take a look below at the different common areas!


Centro Especializado De Atención A Los Mayores

By  Natalia Socarras

Alicante, oh how I love you. However, I fell in love with you even more after visiting your center for older adults, el Centro Especializado de Atención A Los Mayores. I have always had a soft spot in my heart for older adults, especially those who are at risk for loneliness and poor health care, but I have always viewed older adults in the image we tend to have of them in the United States, which is when they are already far gone in their physical and mental health. Thus, when choosing to study social work for the purpose of working with the elderly, I had in my mind that I would be working with individuals that may no longer be functioning cognitively and physically at the same level as they would have in their younger years.

I was surprised to find that the center for older adults was not in fact a “daycare” for adults who were already struggling with the challenges that come with old age, such as we stereotypically imagine, but that the center functioned as a center for preventative activities. To expound, the way this center works, is that it looks as the individual holistically and engages them in activities that would help them specifically with their daily life and social engagements. The point is to offer activities which may help prevent memory loss and loss of physical and social functioning. I found this absolutely fascinating because I have yet to hear of anything like this in the United States. While I am sure that there are facilities and programs that exist in the United States, it seems that the major type of elderly facility structure is that for those who are already needing full-time care. This center is also publically funded and serves more than 1,000 individuals each day.


After our visit to the center today, I could not help but wish that our time in Alicante were longer so that I could visit the center again to learn more about its history and functioning. I am also interested to learn about other preventative programs for the elderly throughout the country of Spain. I will definitely be doing more research on this type of facility and see if it has evidence-based outcomes, because if so this would be an amazing concept to bring into the United States!

Soul searching in Spain

By Amanda Molé, MSW

Before I begin, perhaps I should say that some of my reflection may seem controversial. However, I feel like it is important for me to be honest and real throughout my learning process.

This morning, I got up early enough to get dressed up for church and decide where I wanted to go. Since I was late arriving for this trip last week, I missed the cathedral trip in Barcelona. I decided to look for a cathedral here, and found the Concatedral de San Nicolas. There was a mass at 11:00, so I left my host’s home at 10:00 so I could take my time getting there.

The walk there was difficult… Panhandlers, who have mostly been not visible in Alicante, were out in droves. It was heartbreaking seeing them lining the streets, and calling out to me in Spanish. Even though I could not understand all the words, I understood their pain. Even upon arriving at the church’s doors, five or six people immediately approached me, with outstretched hands and cries of “Por favor, por favor!” I was torn between wanting to help, and knowing that if I gave money to one person, more would approach me. I repeated “Lo siento” over and over, put my head down, and walked through the doors.

The splendor of the cathedral was mesmerizing. The beautiful gothic architecture was apparent from the ceiling to the floor, with large open spaces, intricately carved columns, and round windows. Ornate tapestries, detailed paintings, and fresh flowers adorned the altar and walls. A massive pipe organ was to the right of the altar, played by a talented young man.

The inside of the Concatedral

Of course, the mass was said in Spanish. However, since I was raised Catholic, I recognized the parts of the mass (the First Reading, Second Reading, Gospel, and homily), as well as the Nicene Creed, Lord’s Prayer, and Gloria. I didn’t participate in reciting the prayers (I felt too self-conscious to say them in English), but I did greet other parishioners after the Lord’s Prayer, donated a euro to the offering, and took Communion. As far as I could understand, the parts of the mass were the same as they are in the United States. This makes sense, since the Catholic church is much more structured than Protestant churches. There were a few differences, however. Nearly all of the parishioners were formally dressed, and in the United States, many Catholic churches do not mind if people are wearing jeans and t-shirts. Additionally, as I looked around, I noticed there was not a single child or even teenager present. I do not know the reason for this, but I found it surprising! As a whole, I found the experience lovely.

After mass, I took a seven-minute walk to the Basilica de Santa Maria, because I wanted to see what the difference is between a cathedral and a basilica. It turns out there is not much difference: a basilica is simply a higher ranking church, given that designation by the Pope. The inside of the basilica was almost as beautiful as the cathedral, though a bit smaller. It, too, had intricately carved columns, gothic architecture, and large, beautiful paintings.

The inside of the Basilica

While visiting these gorgeous churches today, I reflected back on our visit to Caritas Parroquial Nuestra Senora de la Misericordia, which is also Catholic. I wondered if Basilica de Santa Maria and Concatedral de San Nicolas had similarly active community service and charity programs. I know we are not supposed to assume, but… surely such large churches must have similar programs. I imagine it is not restricted to Caritas. For some time, I have been disillusioned by Christianity in the United States. Many of our churches do not engage in consistent community outreach, except perhaps around the holidays. We also have supposedly religious people attempting to pass laws to keep same-sex couples and non-Christians from adopting orphaned children while openly oppressing anyone who does not conform to their strict, seemingly arbitrary rules. When we visited Caritas, the Sisters and Padre explained to us that it does not matter what religion or race someone is in order to receive services. They told us that they are more concerned about “healing hearts” than conforming to rules. Are all, or perhaps most, of the churches in Spain this way? I hope so. Are ANY of the churches in the United States this way? I honestly don’t know. It has been difficult for me to find a church in which I feel comfortable as a progressive Christian. Where are the Christians who reach out to the sick, the old, the homeless, the immigrants, the children, the widows? Where are the Christians who want to “heal hearts?” That is where I want to be.

I am grateful for the opportunity to observe and at least somewhat participate in religious services outside of my little area of Florida. It gives me hope that we can accomplish great deeds in spite of all the negativity in the world.

The religious procession in the evening

Caritas Parroquial Nuestra Senora de la Misericordia

By Dominique Dement    

Caritas Parroquial Nuestra Senora de la Misericordia

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.

Three Sisters, the Padre, and our translator, Cynthia

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.

Group photo with the Padre

A Day Off

By Jeffry Reni

Today, we were given the opportunity to take a day to ourselves to enjoy and do anything we desired. So, the first thing I decided was to catch up on all of the lost sleep by staying in bed as late as possible. I woke up at 11, but that was only because my host mother had to drag me out of bed to enjoy some freshly made breakfast. After eating a wonderful breakfast, my roommate and I decided that we would go to the park with our host family, and afterwards we would go to meet up the rest of the cohort at the beach. Upon arriving to the park with our host mother and her grandchildren, I immediately went straight to the monkey bars. There, we challenged the children to a monkey bar competition where we were completely outmatched by the combined skills of a 4, 8 and 13 year old. We also played with a soccer ball and I even taught the kids how to play “Hot Potatoes” and “Tips.” It felt great spending these moments with the family and having a chance to build a genuine relationship with their family. We soon realized that it was getting late so we made our way to the beach to meet up with the rest of our classmates. At the beach, we had a great time relaxing and spending quality time with each other. We also ended up going to a bar where we got to enjoy some local food and some of the local people. After all of this, I went back home to my host family to watch some football.

Finally, I’m going to take a relatively early dinner and bed so that I will have the energy needed to tackle Catholic mass in the morning.  Overall, it was a fantastic day off because I had an opportunity to connect deeper with my host family, my cohort, and the culture. I’m grateful that we had the opportunity to have a great time and I hope that by the end of the trip, I will have an even deeper understanding of the people and culture.

Lest Your Adventures Land You in the Hospital

By: Katrina Ausley

This morning Jamie, Darlene, Jade and I found ourselves at the top of a large hill waiting with heightened anxiety for a bus that we dearly hoped would get us down to the Central Market in time to meet our fellow travelers. As luck would have it, the bus came at the last possible second and we headed out for a day filled with educational opportunities, more so than I could have imagined when I left home this morning.

Our first stop of the day was at the San Juan Hospital and Medical School. We were all ushered into a conference room with our translator and coordinator Cindy, Mireia (a journalist and student at the school), and a doctor who allowed us to ask questions about the services provided at the hospital.

Due to my background working with patients who experience suicidal ideation and self-harming behaviors, I was curious on how the mental health care system in Spain viewed involuntary commitment (such as the United States using Baker Acts). I learned that in Spain, people who are suffering from these behaviors or ideations are first taken to the main hospital and assessed for risk. Once a doctor determines that the patient needs to be involuntarily committed, they can hold the patient for roughly 48 hours while also sending a recommendation to the courts.

The courts will then send someone out to consider the recommendation and decide whether the person will need long term involuntary commitment. I also asked whether mental health care is covered by their universal health care system. The doctor appeared confused when the question was asked and then promptly replied that “of course mental health care is covered.” I found his confusion and answer fascinating. I am an avid advocate for mental health care coverage in the United States, but unfortunately have seen a great deal of gaps in terms of insurance coverage for those suffering from mental health related issues. The fact that this question seemed so absurd to this Spanish doctor further strengthened my resolve to advocate for more services when we get back to the United States.

After our group discussion with the doctor, we were given a tour of the hospital. I started to notice some telltale signs that I was not having a lucky day. This was exactly what I was thinking about as I sat, legs out in front of me on the ground, after tripping down some of the stairs. I got up and told myself to be more careful and headed to the library with the rest of our group.

The library in the Medical School seemed much different from the ones that I have studied in during my college career in the United States. Instead of row after row of overcrowded bookshelves as far as the eyes can see, there were only a couple handfuls of shelves, and many of them were somewhat barren. We were told that with the invention of the internet and the use of school books, libraries here did not carry as many books as we were used to seeing. We explored the books that were there and then headed to our next tour stop, the recording broadcasting studio (see the “Bulls on Air” blog post).

After the conclusion of the radio show, Dr. Carrion found a hospital social worker who was willing to answer our questions about the role of social workers in Spain. She explained to us that social workers have the option of specializing in health, general social work, or education.

She specialized in health and discussed some of her responsibilities at the hospital. Her area of expertise was in relation to substance and alcohol abuse. She stated that when a client comes to the clinic, she and the psychiatrist discuss what actions should be taken and then the psychiatrist makes the final call.

As we began to exit the hospital, I managed to slip on another step.

After the hospital visit, everyone went home for lunch. Jamie, Darlene, Jade, and I accidently got on a bus going in the wrong direction and were kicked out of the bus at Las Rambles while the driver went on break. Once his break was over, the driver let us back on the bus and we made it home.

Vale, our host mother, had made a wonderful lunch with pasta (gluten free for me), salad, and fresh watermelon for dessert. Unfortunately, my roommate and good friend Jamie was feeling under the weather and opted out of lunch for an early siesta. When it came time to head back to the Central Market, I decided not to wake her up and went back into town with Darlene and Jade.

The group met with Dr. Carrion and Dr. Joshi to discuss what we learned and what we were enjoying about the trip. Everyone seemed a little tired from the heat and all the walking, but the discussion was interesting and I enjoyed being able to hear the opinions of my constituents.

Eventually the meeting ended and I went to a café with Linda, Besima, Nathan, and Spencer. I sat sipping fresh squeezed orange juice as we discussed what we were enjoying about the trip and how the culture in Spain differed from our own. The weather was beautiful and I felt completely relaxed. I decided I wanted to check on Jamie, so I said adios to my friends and began the walk home.

I got lost on the way to the bus stop. I’m not sure how that happened. At this point I had taken the bus down this way several times but I had yet to take it back up. I walked in the direction I thought I remembered taking home, then changed my mind, then walked some more until finally I had been walking around the city for an hour and had no idea where I was. No problem.

I just had to find the #13 bus. I walked confidently up the street in front of me (and down the street, and over a street, and so on) until I finally found the #13 bus and quickly jumped aboard.

It took me a while to realize that I was taking the bus in the wrong direction, and by “a while” I mean that I realized it when the bus driver kicked me out of the bus at Las Rambles, which was the last stop (again).

I made it home safely and am looking forward to tomorrows new adventure.

Bulls on air!

Amanda Molé, MSW

Today, los Toros got an unexpected treat: When visiting the San Juan hospital, which is connected to a university, we took a tour, which included the radio broadcast studio. Dr. Carrion, as well as four students, were invited to do a radio broadcast. Check out these great photos as well as the YouTube video!