The little place making a big difference.
You only need to speak to Begoña Arana Alvarez for a few minutes to realise just how passionate she is about her work with Hogar Betania. Begoña was already working for a charity, catering for a small group of twelve to fifteen homeless people, when the organisation decided it had to close down for lack of funds. There was no doubt in Begoña’s mind that this could not be allowed to happen and she determined to keep the Hogar open, whatever it took. And what it has taken is complete dedication to the project and an enthusiasm that knows no bounds. Begoña was twenty-five when she took over the management of the Hogar. She worked without a salary for 18 months, after which she applied for some remuneration through EU sponsorship. What she has achieved since then is nothing less than impressive.
The Hogar has grown from catering for 12-15 people to a much bigger venture which provides a home for sixty people and which also provides cooked food for over 300 people, on a daily basis. This increase in residents was possible when Begoña got the Ayuntamiento in La Linea to give them a large building, behind the old hospital, which had once been an old people’s home. The building was derelict and had to be completely refurbished; a job which took three and a half years to complete, as well as constant work on Begona’s part to get the necessary funds to cover costs. Dozens of firms and individuals from the area helped out – many from Gibraltar. In fact, Begoña makes it very clear when you speak to her that without the help they get from Gib, much of what they do would not be possible.
And Hogar Betania isn’t just a roof over the heads of some of the most vulnerable and marginalised people in society. It also offers all the support required to reintegrate these individuals into society by helping them to find employment and accommodation. And as if this wasn’t enough the Hogar undertakes other important social projects: it acts as a Summer school for some of the most under-privileged children in La Linea, providing them with breakfast, lunch and “merienda”, as well as fun activities and outings; it supports the rehabilitation of ex-prisoners; it has recently welcomed several immigrant women who were pregnant – some of whom have already given birth in the short time since they arrived. These women and their babies have been set up in a house which was recently ceded to Betania. There, the women will be supported in whatever way they need to bring up their children and helped to eventually become independent. It’s worth mentioning that many of these women have been trafficked and are often pregnant as a result of rape. For these reasons, living among others in the same circumstances, in a safe place, is of crucial importance.
It’s only when you try to work out how much money it takes to provide all these services, for all these people, that you realise how much it must cost to run the place. And none of it comes from the government or official sources; Hogar Betania relies entirely on donations. It’s only the ongoing support from residents of the Campo de Gibraltar, on both sides of the border, which make it possible for a place like this to exist.
Toiletries, non-perishable goods, nappies etc. are always very welcome. The home’s continued existence is a testament to human perseverance and kindness, and if you would like to help ensure its future, their doors are always open to whatever help can be offered.
For further information on the work done at Hogar Betania, visit hogarbetania.es or visit their Facebook page. For further information locally, contact Conchita Triay on 54028074.
BY CONCHITA TRIAY