The social project 'É um Restaurante' ('It's a Restaurant') of Associação CRESCER, from Lisbon, is the winner of the seventh edition of REN's AGIR Prize, this year dedicated to the promotion of employment and professional integration of people in vulnerable situations. This is a restaurant in Lisbon where the service is provided by homeless people. Santa Casa da Misericórdia do Porto received second place with an initiative linked to the support of homeless people who are beneficiaries of Plataforma + Emprego and São João de Deus Institute, which operates in Barcelos, came third with a project to support people with mental illness.
The 'É Um Restaurante' project also enables homeless people to enjoy social and psychological assistance, access to healthcare and housing, among others, facilitating their real inclusion in the community. Social support takes place continuously throughout the project, up to the stage of professional integration, and even after, in case of unemployment.
In the first year of the initiative, of the 47 people who participated in the training in this project, 11 are already working, six were sent to internships in one of the partner restaurants, 21 received dental treatment and 22 joined specialty consultations. None are sleeping in the streets. At the moment, due to the pandemic, the project works exclusively with takeaway service and home deliveries, but it is expected to resume traditional service soon.
At 'É um Restaurante', each trainee has 800 hours of training: personal (given by CRESCER), in catering techniques (given by the School of Hospitality and Tourism) and in a working context in the restaurant. The training, designed in conjunction with the School of Hospitality and Tourism and with the IEFP (Institute for Employment and Vocational Training), was tailor-made for the project and its beneficiaries, and is duly accredited.
The AGIR Prize 2020 will contribute to the operation of the 'É um Restaurante' project for one year, enabling the integration of a third class of trainees. The prize will also be applied to the recovery of the space, necessary for its reopening, after its closure motivated by the COVID-19 pandemic, which led to the restructuring of the space to allow the preparation of 600 meals a day to be distributed on the streets and in Lisbon City Council's centres for the homeless.
The theme of this year's AGIR Prize was 'Promoting employment and professional integration of people in situations of vulnerability'. Américo Nave, Executive Director of CRESCER, an association that, since 2001, has been working on the community integration of homeless people, refugees and people who consume psychoactive substances, says that 'the methodology we use is based on the idea that in order to eradicate extreme poverty and social inequality, these people must, above all, have the right to housing and independence through employment'. 'REN's AGIR Prize, in addition to the honour stemming from its recognition, enables us to continue our work with these communities, in an attempt to minimise the lack of responses in the area of employability for the most vulnerable populations', he added.
For Rodrigo Costa, Chairman and CEO of REN, 'in such an atypical year, it is gratifying to see that there are so many projects concerned with creating a future for people in situations of vulnerability. When we created the AGIR Prize, we did so precisely to encourage these projects, which help create a better future for people who had none'.
Institutions from Porto and Barcelos also awarded prizes
The 'Rede Sorrisos' ('Smile Network') project from Santa Casa da Misericórdia of Porto won second place in REN's AGIR Prize. The initiative seeks to support the beneficiaries of Plataforma + Emprego, another project from Misericórdia of Porto, aimed at integrating people with an employability profile. It provides financial resources to solve individual problems (e.g., dental treatments, acquisition of uniforms, purchase of glasses, among others), enabling equitable access to the labour market. Since 2018, the project has integrated 28 people, 15 of whom are still working.
According to the Director of Misericórdia of Porto, António Tavares, 'the AGIR Prize is a sign of clear reinforcement of the importance and urgency of projects aimed at supporting people in situations of vulnerability. The funds made available by the AGIR Prize will be entirely allocated to supporting the professional integration of the candidates from the Plataforma + Emprego, so this is a prize for people seeking their reintegration and a new opportunity. We, Misericórdia of Porto, will only be supporting their realisation'.
The 'TecMeUp' project, promoted by the São João de Deus Institute, in Barcelos, won third place on REN's AGIR Prize. 'TecMeUp' wants to help people with mental illness to have more independence and autonomy by providing them with the digital tools they need to get into the job market. In the first stage, the pilot project involves eight beneficiaries from the Barcelos region.
According to Isabel Bragança, Director of Casa de Saúde de S. João de Deus (a health centre), 'the AGIR Prize 2020 opens a window of opportunity to strengthen our intervention with people with mental illness. The risk of exclusion faced by this population is critical, especially in terms of accessibility to employment. This recognition, in addition to validating the strategy outlined in 2010 for this proximity response, promotes a space for awareness of an oftentimes hidden reality. On behalf of current and potential users of the programme, thank you very much'.
REN has already defined the theme for the next edition of the AGIR Prize: Social Innovation in the response to COVID-19. While it is true that the pandemic has made it possible to perceive weak points in the response of the approximately 65,000 Social Economy organisations existing in Portugal, it is also true that it has highlighted their capacity to adapt and overcome. These new solutions, which have enabled continuing to support their beneficiaries, must be visible and accessible to more people so that their effects can be maximised and their social impact increased.
Get to know the winning projects via the following links:
About the AGIR Prize
The AGIR Prize is part of REN's policy of Community Involvement and Social Innovation.
Every year, the AGIR Prize chooses an area of social intervention and awards three projects. The most recent editions were dedicated to the topics of 'Promotion of Academic Success and Combating Early School Leaving' (2019), 'Natural Heritage Preservation' (2018), 'Labour Inclusion of People with Disabilities' (2017), 'Fighting Poverty and Social Exclusion' (2016), 'Active Aging' (2015), and 'Job Creation' (2014).
The selection of the three best projects is the responsibility of REN, in partnership with STONE SOUP, which accompanies and monitors the use of the funds donated to each supported project, also evaluating the actual social impact of the awarded support. The winner of the first prize is granted a monetary sum of €30,000, the second, €15,000, and the third, €5,000.