In December 2011, project “Encuentro” (“Encounter”) was born in Madrid within a group of people concerned about the situation in which many people suffer because they lack the basic things to live (home, food, clothing…). The concern and motivation led this initiative to establish a project that would be maintained in a constant way throughout time. It was awareness that there are many people who have no way of accessing social resources and meanwhile they live in poverty and they go unseen by other people.“Encuentro” wants to be a bridge of connection with social resources, the friend who lends a hand and listens to those in their loneliness, and the embrace that welcomes and dignifies the situation in which they are living.
What is Project Encuentro?
It is learning how to see the city, the streets, and the neighborhood with other eyes.
It is taking an active part in reality and not being indifferent to what is happening; but rather, to get involved through concrete acts (sharing time, material goods, help).
It is awakening solidarity that in a time of crisis makes demands of everyone as well as their surroundings.
It is the giving of self to others, love of neighbor without labels or prejudices, it is selfless service…
What makes it different from other initiatives?
The charism of Encuentro is accompanying from proximity, trust, and personally. Moreover this physical company is united to easing needs. The routes are always made of more than coffee or cookies; instead they take the famous “picnic” consisting of a warm sandwich, fruit, juice, a croissant and cookies to make it an encounter and sharing a meal. Moreover, it is taken directly to each person who had previously requested (clothes, books, food, articles of hygiene, underwear) in the measure of possibility.
That is, they do not go to an institution; but rather, the volunteers are the ones who come to their “home” to help them in their needs from their reality and to allow them to grow from what they have.
From the Shrine to the peripheries
Every route always departs with a motivation from the Serrano Shrine in order to pray for each person that they will encounter and to place themselves in the hands of Mary as her instruments, aware of their smallness and allowing her to welcome each person that is found on the road. The volunteers depart from their situations to touch the other face of the coin where there is poverty, hunger, indifference, and personal wounds.
Through this project they try to learn to see this society and everything that occurs in it with depth. And they have to receive the three graces of the Shrine in order to give them. You cannot welcome them if they do not allow you to enter in their “homes” and they do not confide their stories. The volunteers could not transform themselves or help in the growth of the people they meet if they do not leave their hearts open so that the experience will take on life, if they do not have the sensitivity before everything that happens, and they are touched. They could not be sent forth if they did not want to be aware in some way of the social injustices and to be sensitive to them in order to change the world that surrounds them, with this small contribution.
A project that changes life
Finally other people have joined, and the project has more volunteers, and thus they go out every fifteen days to accompany them. The personal experiences show that it is a project, which has changed each one of their lives’; moreover they live with simplicity, the sensitivity to society, the ability to listen, and the generosity. Every time that they have witnessed someone who has regained hope, of someone who has left the street, or someone who has the essentials for the month…it is a great gift that encourages them to continue giving their time.
They have the help of other non-profit organizations that orient them in the more complicated cases and that have more experience with legal matters. Associations such Bocats, Red Incola, Samur social, etc. have guided them in concrete cases. They also have the help of professionals: social workers, psychologists, and doctors who intervene in existent cases in a personal capacity.
For the next one hundred years
“We dream of having a headquarters someday in order to store clothes and food and to help more families and homeless people. We have a blog that we hope will receive more visits. We would like to have more funds in order to broaden the projects,” the hopeful volunteers explain.
It is a project in which people from every race, sex, religion, including agnostics and entire families with their children, collaborates. It is open to whoever wants to actively participate by going out to the streets and acting passively with economic contributions or by resolving the material needs that emerge. It goes out from the Schoenstatt Family also to give its charism to the church and the entire world.
Original: Spanish – Translation – Celina M. Garza, San Antonio, TX USA