ADC Funchal is a private non-profit social welfare institution founded in March 2003 to promote the integration and social development of disadvantaged social groups that are in situations at risk.
ADC Funchal promotes communication between the various local institutions to improve the profitability of society's resources and guarantee an integrated development process in the local communities. They also involve the population to develop a participatory attitude and make the people aware of their problems, needs and skills. Finally, they implement, collaborate and follow local programs and projects aimed at professional training, education, occupation of leisure time and socio-cultural animation of the most disadvantaged populations.
It arose from the need to respond to the problematic situations conditioning the existence of vulnerable social groups. I met Carla Feliciano, the secretary general of ADC Funchal, to find out more about this association that organises daily activities for around 250 adults and 50 children in its community centres.
“The people that started this project were a group of friends who worked in a social area. They were cooperating with the city hall of Funchal, building social houses and they saw that people living in the newly formed social housing needed places to stay, to meet and to learn and, altogether, that they needed social support. We wanted to develop the community, so we founded this association, Associação de Desenvolvimento Comunitário do Funchal.”
Carla Feliciano describes how the project started and depicts the difficulties the association faced, and that has been moving them towards improving their services.
“We started with four community centres, but after some time we decided to close one of them because it didn’t work well. What happened there was that we put together people from different neighbourhoods and people of diverse ways of living with just one thing in common – they all lived in very bad conditions. And of course, they didn’t get along! After closing that centre, we opened other three new community centres, one of them is now a day centre specialised in aged and adult people who have Alzheimer's disease.” During the past years, the association has been growing a lot, as Carla describes: “When I started here, we were around ten people, now we are thirty employees and other people that collaborate with us on a daily basis, some of them are volunteers, others are teachers who work with us externally and are paid by the education department”.
Nowadays ADC Funchal works with adults, older people and with children who may come to the community centres after school to do their homework and, during the summertime, to participate in summer activities organised by the association.
“We have a network of institutions that we collaborate with. We can, for instance, set an appointment with a doctor and accompany our clients to the health care centre or inform the social security about a new problem that occurred at the client.”
Community centres are open on weekdays from morning to late afternoon. They offer not only breakfast and lunch, but most importantly a varied program, including classes of reading, writing and math given by professional teachers, music and art classes, physical education, swimming and much more. The centres also organise visits to interesting places on the island and sometimes even trips abroad.
"The door is open to everybody. We don’t exclude, everyone is welcome!" says Carla, and she specifies that their users are in many cases people coming from precarious conditions or suffering from depressions, mental problems, that might be unemployed for a long time and sometimes illiterate.
Summer holidays is probably the busiest season for the association. During this period, ADC Funchal offers another significant service, the summer camps for children.
The association realised very soon that this service was essential for their adult clients “Parents cannot take two months of vacation, especially in the tourist season. The situation changed a lot because when I was a kid, my grandmother took care of us in the summertime. Here in Madeira, the women in the past didn’t go to work and instead took care of the houses and family. But now most of the grandparents are still working and cannot stay at home with the kids for two months, it’s impossible.”
The summer camp for children is so popular and required by parents that its capacity of 150 places is not enough. “Even though it’s not completely free, the price of our camp (125 euros per month per kid) is much lower than the regular commercial prices, which are around 250/300 euros. Besides, we use so-called rifas (raffle) to help parents that have difficulties to afford the camp.” A raffle is a method of collective financing where the fundraising campaign organiser offers a gift to be drawn among supporters in return for the support received. This method has been used traditionally in Portugal as a kind of crowdfunding of the projects with non-profit objectives. “The parents get raffle tickets for each child, and it's only up to them if they manage to sell them all. If yes, the price of the camp is fully refunded to them.
Regarding finances, the secretary general says that about 70% of the association's budget (approximately half of a million euros per year) is covered by public funds provided by the region and the municipality. The association itself raises the remaining 30% through charity events or thanks to individual donations and other fundraising activities.
“Unfortunately, we cannot help our clients financially, but we can give them happiness and comfort. We can provide them with better food and give them the possibility to learn new things, spend the day occupied and meet new people.” She concludes the interview: “I think that we are doing a fantastic job and we don’t want to stop, we still want to grow, and we are always looking for new things to do and new ways to work.”