Hope in El Pozo
El Pozo del Tío Raimundo is an area of the Entrevías neighbourhood (in the Puente de Vallecas district of Madrid). It used to be a shanty town with no services and families in vulnerable situations, but in the midst of this situation there are people who have driven the area's development: people who are proud of their neighbourhood have worked to improve the lives of the people closest to them.
Esperanza has been living in El Pozo for over 50 years, surrounded by her neighbours who are like family to her. She has always been involved in community issues and committed to those who need her most. According to her, 'neighbours would come to my house and they'd tell me their problems and I tried to help them any way I could'.
One day, Fundación ARGOS and Eduardo Pérez entered her life and the life of her neighbourhood, transforming the lives of many. 'Any time there was a problem I'd tell Eduardo... If there was a family that needed help paying their bills or visiting the doctor... he always helped us, not just financially, but he would also bring clothing, food, whatever we needed. One day he said to me: Esperanza, why don't we open a soup kitchen? In the beginning I thought “you're crazy!” But seeing how many people needed food, I told him, “consider it done” and I starting looking for a place and organising everything'.
That’s how the soup kitchen La Fonda was born almost 10 years ago. As Esperanza tells it, 'in two weeks we set it up, painted the space, got it ready, and started operating. In the beginning there were only 14 people and we gave up to 200 meals, covered many shifts, and there were still people waiting outside to eat. No one ever left empty-handed. If we could, we would give them a packed lunch or we would prepare them a sandwich, anything so that they wouldn't leave without eating'.
The role of volunteers
In this adventure in solidarity the role of the volunteers who made it possible is crucial, and according to Esperanza, 'the food was prepared by Fundación ARGOS volunteers in their homes and they brought it to the soup kitchen according to the menu that was planned. It was all homemade: first course, main, dessert, and coffee'.
In 2011, Francisco, one of the volunteers who worked at the soup kitchen, presented the initiative to More then Words, a Fundación Repsol project that supports social projects. Thanks to this collaboration, the soup kitchen received €6000 to keep helping the people who needed it most, and also opened its doors to numerous Repsol volunteers, who have collaborated on this soup kitchen's work since. 'In El Pozo there is a lot of need, a lot more than we could imagine at first glance' said Francisco, Repsol employee and volunteer.
However, El Pozo has started to change and new soup kitchens have opened in the neighbourhood. Thus, in 2016, the direction of the soup kitchen La Fonda adapted to this new scenario, and since then every Wednesday almost 300 bags are prepared to help families who cannot get to the soup kitchens: the elderly, people with mobility issues, and families with children. Along with many other Repsol volunteers, Francisco participates in this activity that would undoubtedly be impossible without volunteers. 'Many volunteers are needed, as over 20 000 kilos of food are distributed every month and need to be organised into bags for families'. There are bags that are delivered to people living alone and others for families with more than seven members. 'Volunteers make this possible, without them it would be impossible to reach so many families', Francisco said.
From 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. every Thursday, Esperanza and her team receive the families of the neighbourhood to give them their bags.
In addition, thanks to the hard work of Fundación ARGOS and the NGO Olvidados, they are developing other childhood support projects in El Pozo in order to affect change in future generations.
Soup kitchens allow thousands of people to eat every day. A very diverse group of people go to these organisations. As indicated by the latest socio-demographic studies, the financial crisis increased the number of people requiring this kind of help, including families where jobs were lost and migrants who were compelled to live on the street.
In addition, according to the latest INE study, in 2016 the number of people assisted in housing centres for the homeless in Spain increased 20.5% since 2014, with over 16 000 people being registered.
In response to this situation, Fundación Repsol is collaborating with different soup kitchens in Madrid, where the team of Repsol volunteers goes every month to improve the lives of hundreds of people. If you’d like to learn more about this, click here.