On a dark winter’s day, we entered a dank, decaying building redolent with the odour of rats and refuse. There was something forlorn about the place as we climbed the stairs and cautiously entered a sagging door to behold a scene of devastation, soot- black and unappealing.

A short rotund lady filled with a bounce of optimism headed our little party. She smiled and said “the owner has offered it rent free”. “I am not surprised” I murmured in reply.

What we were looking at was the bar and reception area of the old cinema in Silves. In its heyday, it was the social centre of the town. But a fire had devastated the part of the building we were in, and the cinema itself had closed as it was considered unsafe.

The year was 2007, and the enthusiastic lady was Liliana Jacinto, who organises the Silves charity, Castelo de Sonhos. “We could run a club here,” she suggested. Our group of three looked glumly at the wreckage. “I’ll get you some help,” she said brightly.

Liliana is someone who is not to be denied. Reluctantly we set to work and as the room took shape we caught Liliana’s enthusiasm. The idea was to create a club room for foreigners and locals with a bar and regular musical and social events. All profits were to go to Castelo de Sonhos. By the end of the year, the place was cleared of debris, painted and decorated and the Clube Cine-Teatro Silvense was formed – known by the foreigners as the Sinners Club. We ran the club successfully for over five years before a tornado tore the roof off the cinema and we were forced to close.

We came to know Liliana well during these years. She has a doctorate in agronomy and worked all her life for the government. When she retired from her job in 1997, rather than relaxing she single handily formed her charity which has become her whole life ever since. Her family has always been involved in politics and welfare and she too felt the need to help the poor and underprivileged in the area where she lived, Silves. She has dedicated her life to helping those who are desperately in need.

With her energy and drive, she soon organised a team of willing volunteers to raise funds and deliver food from the food bank and supermarkets, second hand furniture, bedding, utensils and clothing. She teamed up with CAFAP a government funded organisation that gives support to families in need through trained social workers and psychologists. A baby shop was started to donate formula milk, baby food clothing and hygiene products to needy mothers – some of them as young as fifteen years old.

New challenges
Nearly 80 and in ill health, Liliana has turned to others to carry on her good work. All this comes in these challenging Covid times with additional families falling into the poverty trap having lost jobs in the tourist and local industry depending on tourism. We have seen a surge in families relying on the charity’s help to survive. One of the worst problems is lack of affordable housing. Even a wretched single room with basic amenities can cost €250 per month, a sum which so many cannot afford and even if they do manage, there could be three generations of a family cohabiting in miserable conditions.

Our charity tries to alleviate the suffering of these poor folk, particularly the families at risk. We receive requests from the law courts to help children who are being abused. Young mothers who themselves have no family to rely on and lack the knowledge to help an infant. Basics like how to feed them and wash them are taught by our team of social workers.

We have to supplement the Food Bank supplies as the quantities are insufficient to feed all the registered families. We try to give assistance to school kids by supplying materials at the beginning of the school year through our “Back to School” project. Some kids do not qualify for state aid as they are not registered but need computer tablets for their education. We also help entertain kids during the school summer holidays with trips to the beach and the countryside, and then we give an annual Christmas party in Fissul (sadly cancelled last year) providing Christmas toys, food and entertainment. Also there is the shoebox campaign where we distribute a shoebox filled with Christmas goodies and warm clothing to the elderly and the needy, generously supplied by our supporters throughout the Algarve.

We could not carry out many these projects without help and donations from the public. We had a regular income from our charity shop in Silves but with lockdown the shop has been closed and those funds are sorely missed. So we depend ever more upon people like yourselves to help.

Although the area covered by the charity is Silves and outlying areas, in more recent times they are collaborating with the Centro de Apoio Familiar e Aconselhamento Parental (CAFAP) which is currently supporting families who live in Portimão.

To Donate
In this current period Castelo is looking for monetary donations to help pay for the items outlined above. If you have any queries please don’t hesitate to contact Sue at Castelo de Sonhos on 933 374 865, or via email at sueloram@gmail.com

But if you are ready to donate here are the bank details for payment: IBAN: PT50 0045 7130 4020 9663 6392 9. Please use the word ‘Babies’ as the payment reference.A big thank you in advance from everyone at Castelo de Sonhos.
Castelo de Sonhos, IPSS no. 3000062892