São Tomé and Príncipe: Older people receive care and compassion from Red Cross volunteers
"Today, thanks to the centre, I feel better and have regained a taste for life."
These are the words of Manuel, 81, a resident of the São Tomé and Príncipe Red Cross welcome centre for the elderly, where volunteers work every day to bring a smile and hope to some of the country's older population.
Set up in October 2005, with funding from the Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the welcome centre has been run by the São Tomé and Príncipe Red Cross for nearly 20 years.
Today, volunteers are taking care of 18 residents – people from all walks of life who have come upon hard times and need a little extra help to get by.
In Manuel’s case, it was a story of great tragedy that brought him to the centre.
He had worked for the Portuguese Embassy for a long time. But financial difficulties meant he was unable to build the house of his dreams – the one where he hoped to spend his old age. When the time came for him to retire, he had to leave his house to move in with his daughter.
One night while they were at home, an enormous fire broke out. Manuel lost everything, including his precious daughter.
Distraught and completely lost, he found support and comfort in the Red Cross centre after being approached by a volunteer in his community who had noticed his distress.
"Today, thanks to the centre, I feel better and I’m getting back to life. I have the support of a doctor, a roof over my head, a meal every day and friends to talk to.”
The centre has evolved a lot during the past 20 years.
"The initial project was to provide a home and basic assistance for older people who had been rejected by their families. But over time, we transformed it into a properwelcome centrewhere we take care of more complex needs of our residents,” says Filippa Fernandes, volunteer and director of the centre.
"We strive to provide them with an environment where they can flourish by taking care of their physical and mental health," she added.
Friendship and conversation are an important part of supporting the mental health of older people in the community. So the São Tomé and Príncipe Red Cross also runs a social centre nearby which opens its doors every day, letting all older people in the community come and socialize with one another.
Together, all visitors can spend the day in a safe and peaceful place where they have access to basic amenities, such as food and washrooms.
Ronaldo, is one of the seven volunteers who work to keep the social centre active. As manager and cook, he manages the day-to-day business inside the centre, but also heads out into the community to deliver meals to people with limited mobility.
"We try to do our best to make sure that no one is left behind.”
Red Cross volunteer
Too often in societies around the world, older people are underserved, cast aside or viewed as a burdenon a country's resources. But thanks to the kindness of Red Cross volunteers like Ronaldo and Filippa, older people in their community are being treated with the dignity, respect and care that they deserve.
The welcomecentre for the elderly receives funding from local churches and associations, as well as members of the diaspora. The social centre was initially set up with funding from the joint IFRC and ICRC Empress Shôken Fund. In 2022, the IFRC provided water, sanitation and hygiene kits to all residents.
If you are a donor and are interested in learning more and supporting the IFRC’s work in São Tomé and Príncipe, please read our IFRC network country plan here which includes contact details for our cluster office in the region.
You can also click here to learn more about the IFRC’s work supporting healthy ageing.
Sao Tome and Principe Red Cross
Empress Shôken Fund announces grants for 2019
About the Fund
The Empress Shôken Fundis named after Her Majesty The Empress of Japan, who proposed – at the 9th International Conference of the Red Cross – the creation of an international fund to promote relief work in peacetime. It is administered by the Joint Commission of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and the International Committee of the Red Cross, which maintains close contact with the Japanese Permanent Mission in Geneva, the Japanese Red Cross Society and the Meiji Jingu Research Institute in Japan.
The Fund has a total value of over 15 million Swiss francsand supports projects run by National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies to benefit their communities in various ways. The first grant was awarded in 1921, to help five European National Societies fight the spread of tuberculosis. The Fund has assisted more than 150 National Societies thus far.
The imperial family, the Japanese government, the Japanese RedCrossand the Japanese people revere the memory of Her Majesty Empress Shôken, and their enduring regard for the Fund isevident inthe regularity of their contributions to it.
The grants are usually announced every year on11April, the anniversary of her death. This yearthe announcement isbeingpublished earlierdue to the weekend.
The selection process
The Fund received 47 applications in 2019, covering a diverse range of humanitarian projects run by National Societies in every region of the world. This year the Joint Commission agreed to allocate a total of 395,782 CHF to 14 projects in Bolivia, Cyprus, Guinea-Bissau, Iraq, Lebanon, Mexico, Mozambique, Sao Tome and Principe, Singapore, Slovenia, Suriname, Thailand, Ukraine and Vanuatu.
The projects to be supported in 2019 cover a number of themes, including displaced people, disaster preparedness in vulnerable communities, and social cohesion and inclusion. Moreover, nearly all of the selected projects seek to strengthen the volunteer base of National Societies, with a view to building on the unique role played by the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement in communities everywhere.
Going forward, the Joint Commission will continue to focus on innovative projects that are geared towards learning so that the broader Movement canbenefit from project findings.
The 2019 grants
The Bolivian Red Cross is currently working to address the issue of gender-based violence among young people. It will use the grant to set up a permanent programme for schools and youth organizations in order to conduct educational sessions, raise awareness, and provide support and assistance to victims of violence.
Cyprus has become an important destination for trans-Mediterranean migration. Using the grant, the Cyprus Red Cross Society will train refugees and asylum seekers in standard and psychological first aid to enable members of the migrant community to help each other and relieve some of the pressure on the health-care sector.
The Red Cross Society of Guinea-Bissau will use the grant to strengthen the resilience of coastal communities threatened by extreme weather. The funds will go towards drawing up an emergency action plan, building up stocks of relief items and training at-risk communities so that they can respond rapidly in times of need.
In Iraq, displaced people and those living in remote areas have limited access to water, sanitary facilities and health care, which increases the risk that diseases such as cholera will spread. The Iraqi Red Crescent Society will use the grant to set up a health-education programme to raise children’s awareness of communicable diseases and the importance of personal hygiene.
The conflict in Syria has significantly increased the number of refugees in Lebanon, which has put a strain on blood-related services in the country. The Lebanese Red Cross is a major provider of these services and will use the grant to enhance its ability to deliver them free of charge to all those in need.
Hundreds of schools in Mexico were damaged by a major earthquake in 2017. The grant will help the Mexican Red Cross to set up a programme to prepare school communities for disasters and other emergencies, promote healthy lifestyles and develop skills to facilitate peaceful co-existence.
Young people account for more than 70% of the volunteers of the Mozambique Red Cross. The National Society will therefore use the grant to strengthen its youth-oriented initiatives by running training camps and information campaigns, and setting up Red Cross activities in schools.
In 2004, the Sao Tome and Principe Red Cross opened a social home for the elderly, which plays an important role in reducing this community’s vulnerability. The grant will allow the National Society to renovate the building and improve the services on offer.
The Singapore Red Cross Society runs a large-scale programme to deploy volunteers overseas during disasters. It will use the grant to scale up the training programme for these volunteers, adding more specialized and in-depth training and team-building sessions to ensure the volunteers can work as effectively as possible.
The Slovenian Red Cross plans to take an innovative approach to social cohesion by tackling hate speech and its consequences, with a special emphasis on hate speech against migrants. The grant will go towards a training programme within schools, designed to encourage students to become young cultural ambassadors and further spread the message.
The Suriname Red Cross Society will use the grant to address disaster preparedness in vulnerable schools in Paramaribo. The National Society will help schools and communities to draw up disaster plans, deliver first-aid training to teachers, and set up and train school emergency brigades made up of teachers and students.
The Thai Red Cross Society has a proven track record in conducting water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) activities in emergencies, through its widespread network of registered nurses. It will use the grant to scale up this campaign, as well as to create a WASH manual, together with general and menstrual hygiene kits.
The armed conflict in Ukraine has led to a substantial rise in the number of volunteers working for the Ukrainian Red Cross Society. The grant will go towards a new, more sophisticated system for registering, managing and training the National Society’s growing volunteer base.
People with disabilities are at greater risk during disasters. The Vanuatu Red Cross Society will therefore use the grant to improve and promote disability and gender inclusion in National Society projects and programmes concerning volunteers, recruitment, capacity building, participation and access.