Portugal – Lisbon “SolSal” service accompanies migrant families

26 January 2021
Photos: João Ramalho

(ANS - Lisbon) - The SolSal Service was created in 2008 in the Salesian house in Lisbon with the mission of intervening not only with children and young people in situations of vulnerability, but also to develop ongoing actions with their families, to promote their well-being and autonomy.

The recipients are many: 114 families, equal to 378 people, of which 195 are minors. 28% of the families are migrants, coming from 10 different countries. Among those families, there are also three of the four nuclei that the Salesian Foundation welcomed in 2016 as part of the relocation program for refugees within the European Union.

"Even if our participation in the program ended in March 2018, at this moment we continue to accompany them as we do with many other migrant families," says Alexandra Constantino, head of SolSal Lisbon and coordinator, together with the Salesian Fr Álvaro Lago, of Works and Salesian Social Service at the national level.

"SolSal" is also one of the entities that have adhered to the Refugee Support Platform (PAR, in Portuguese), a civil society initiative to organize the reception of refugees according to a model of community integration, rather than in refugee centers. All the children and young people of these families study, either in the schools of the Salesian Foundation, or in public institutions, without too much difficulty.

At the housing level, they continue to live in houses of the Salesian Foundation or granted to the Salesian Foundation. Only one of the adults is currently out of work, all the others are employed, full-time or part-time. And as for health care, everyone is registered and has easy access to medical visits and consultations.

In addition to financial support, such as through the distribution of baskets of basic necessities and meals, the beneficiaries of SolSal have access to family counseling programs, for the promotion of skills, psychological support, parental education activities, cooking and family economy.

Specifically to immigrant families, SolSal provides support in accessing public administration services. "One of the greatest difficulties for these families - continues Dr. Domingues - is accessing the support provided by the State, as well as dealing with the renewal of identification documents and residence permits."

Another noteworthy aspect in which SolSal intervenes is the integration and social inclusion of migrants, with Portuguese lessons and conversation sessions for language learning, and with the "Mentoria Familiar Impacto" program, which promotes meetings with Portuguese families.

The pandemic has also imposed greater difficulties on the SolSal Service. But it hasn't stopped them. “Our biggest victory was to have continued with the doors open, despite all the changes we had to make in the functioning of the service,” continues the psychologist. And commendable is the testimony of Antónia Andrade, a Cape Verdean woman who met SolSal eight years ago and today she is a volunteer and helps in the collection and distribution of goods to families in need.


ANS - “Agenzia iNfo Salesiana” is a on-line almost daily publication, the communication agency of the Salesian Congregation enrolled in the Press Register of the Tibunal of Rome as n 153/2007.

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