18/Mai/2020 PORTUGAL

« Casa da Criança of Tires »: educating towards freedom

At the « Casa da Criança » (Children’s Home) in Tires, Cascais, Portugal, there are children of prisoners or children who are victims of neglect, abuse and maltreatment. In this temporary home, professionals and volunteers are a sort of second family: they protect, educate and take care of their needs, providing conditions that promote children’s rights, especially the right to have a home and a family.

At present, in overcrowded conditions, the House accommodates 13 children, who are looked after by 12 volunteers, who work on a rotational basis.

Up to the age of three, the children live with their mothers in the Prison of Neumáticos, a few metres from the Casa da Criança, and although they are adequately protected, they grow up in a prison atmosphere. At the age of three, due to the lack of a family background, they move into the Marist Centre of Social Inclusion.

Based on multidisciplinary intervention, the mission of the Home is to repair and rehabilitate in a welcoming and safe environment, which provides  a therapeutic approach and focuses on the socialization, education, training and development of the children. At the same time, it promotes  intervention in the prison environment, with the family of these children, providing the inmates, mothers and fathers, with personal, social and parental skills with the ultimate goal of reversing the destructive trend of their life path, the cycle and repetition of crime.

Since its inauguration in 2001, the institution, which is part of the Champagnat Foundation of the Marist Province of Compostela, has accommodated more than 120 children. Some stay longer than others, depending on the penal situation of their parents.

During the period of Coronavirus

Since March 16th we have been forced to remain in the home. The way these children received this news increased our responsibility and commitment, highlighting our family spirit and sense of presence with those who are, more than  our work, our purpose in life.

We had a fantastic team that mobilized quickly to ensure that the children’s passage through this new situation was serene and safe and that the memory of this period of their lives was therefore be the best possible, although with some detriment to their personal lives. So we lived every day in this house made of love that characterizes a FAMILY.

Our routines were reorganized, taking into account the need to maintain the carrying out of schoolwork,   physical activity, games and the emotional bond with our family, ensuring the greatest possible normality and safeguarding the emotional stability of everyone: the children and the adults who care for them. We are separated from the world but not from what characterizes us. We continue to play, share smiles and laughter, roll on the grass, watch the shape of the clouds and end our day with the best sunset in the world. And every day we start again!

The biggest difficulty for children at this stage is not being with their family, but we manage to ensure that all families have the opportunity to talk to their children, by video link, providing them with the necessary resources. Today and always, the children accommodated in the « Casa da Criança de Tires » can count on this « imaginary » family, this « storytelling » family which, as in fables and the most beautiful stories, will make the end of their story the traditional « and they lived happily ever after ». We always have a smile on our lips, exchanging looks, with a big hug, a thanks and an « I love you very much »! The truth is simple: what remains every day is the love that we have here among us; it is having a refuge where we can rest our souls while we wait for « the corona to disappear », as they say!

When we are asked for social isolation, we are closer than ever! And that is one of the happiest paradoxes of all time! And it is so essential and can be so visible!

Carla Nunes Semedo

Technical Director of the « Casa da Criança de Tires »

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