TEXT: LAURA SÁNCHEZ IMAGES: DE LOS PROYECTOS, ISTOCK
At a time when the coronavirus has forced us to step up cleaning and hygiene measures, there are people who cannot even afford the luxury of using a washing machine. Precisely in order to ensure the homeless and destitute can perform such an everyday task as doing their washing, the Justice and Peace laundry was created in Albacete. This initiative was launched in 2015; however, with the COVID-19 crisis, the demand for its services has risen dramatically. “Our principal objective has always been to do the laundry for especially vulnerable groups such as homeless people, immigrants and families with scant resources.”
This association has premises equipped with four domestic washing machines, a dryer and several clotheslines. There is also a small room where hot coffee is offered to the people waiting while their clothes are washed. They are offered every attention and a lot of affection by the ten volunteers who collaborate in the laundry. It really is a place to break the ice and discover the actual problems each person faces, learn what their situation is – where they stay, where they shower, where they eat or where they sleep – and try to assist them, offering advice to help them find the help they need.
This is how it works: first of all, new users are duly registered. Next, the clothes are collected at the door and volunteers start the washing machines at sixty degrees centigrade. To clean the clothes, they use natural detergents and disinfectants supplied by the environmental organization Ecologistas en Acción. The wash cycles last nearly an hour and a half, after which those who have somewhere to hang out the washing collect it; for others, every attempt is made to dry it inside the laundry until they come for it. This is a completely free service for those people who unfortunately cannot even wash their clothes in a dignified manner.
More information: https:// www.juspax-es.org/l/ lavanderiajpalbacete/
Tales by Phone
Last January, Ursula von der Leyen, the European Commission President, used her social media accounts to highlight the excellent work carried out by the Municipal Library of Soto del Real, a small town in the mountains around Madrid. Juan Sobrino, director of the library, was determined to combat the isolation faced by the elderly through reading. Many elderly people with cognitive, vision or mobility problems were unable to go to the library. But the library could go to where they lived. So volunteers of all ages, including children, visited the care homes once a month for reading-aloud sessions. However, the COVID-19 outbreak forced these visits to be suspended, but it could not halt the enthusiasm to connect with the elderly through words. That sparked the idea for “Tales by Phone”, which consists of library volunteers reading excerpts of works to people in care facilities or living alone in their own homes. Each of the volunteers always calls and reads to the same person, thus establishing a close bond between the two of them. The volunteers can therefore detect the mood of the elderly person, get to know their tastes and better guess what they might like. In theory, these are 20-minute sessions, but they are usually longer if the volunteer perceives that the listener is eager for more. The idea has already taken off in Italy, Greece, Portugal, Argentina, Mexico, Brazil, Peru, and over 20 associations and libraries all around Spain. As Juan Sobrino declared, “I wouldn’t go so far as to say that literature can save the world, but it does indeed provide tools for building a better world.” More information: https://www.facebook.com/ sotodelreal.ayuntamiento/posts/3096435667138315/
Oxygen on Wheels
The figures for coronavirus infections and deaths in Mexico reached record heights in January. Demand for oxygen tanks at supply centers soared at the same rate as the number of people waiting in line for their turn to be able to fill their bottles. One day Arturo Acosta, a gas industry worker who lives in the city of Guadalajara, came across one of those queues of patients looking for oxygen to recover from the disease. “But what about the people who couldn’t get to one of those centers?” he thought. It was then that Arturo had the idea of bringing this service closer to the less accessible neighborhoods and colonies of the capital of Jalisco, and take oxygen straight to their homes. And thus “Oxygen on Wheels” came about. With the help of a group of friends, Arturo refurbished a van, fitting it with all the safety measures required to be able to transport six 9,500-liter oxygen tanks, sufficient to serve between 30 and 40 people a day. “No one without their oxygen supply!” is the war cry with which Antonio confronts this tremendous situation. Through his Facebook profile #oxigenoenrojes, he publishes the places he will be visiting each day. Dozens of people are waiting for him every night – the delivery is at night because the ambient temperature is lower and this favors oxygen conservation. Given that many of these areas are dangerous at night, he has the support of, and is escorted by, Civil Protection, firefighters and the local police. In his Facebook profile, Acosta also publishes tutorials on how to best use oxygen bottles, as well as highly practical information for all those suffering from respiratory problems. More information: https://www.facebook.com/ oxigenoenruedas