For those who do not already know Madrugada, they are a non-profit association, established in 2009 who provide free home-based, end-of-life palliative care to people aged 18 years and over living in the Algarve who are affected by a life limiting illness.

To date, Madrugada has cared for 230 patients at end of life. They go above and beyond with very few employees and a dedicated core of volunteers. John told me that “this is of course a huge challenge which is why we rely so heavily on the good will of our volunteers and what they do for us.” Madrugada ‘hospice-at-home’ care is “provided free of charge which is only made possible by the generous donations and support of the local community and beyond.”

“All donations are used to provide patient care and are very much needed at this time as Covid has put a lot of pressure on the number of Madrugada volunteers who kindly raise the necessary funds.” Both John and Tanja affirmed that they are lucky to have so many fantastic volunteers and grateful to everyone who supports them as they make a huge difference.

How Madrugada works

In terms of the way Madrugada works, John told me that “elected members of the Association take on the roles of managing various aspects of our work and to lead initiatives for growth and stability of the organisation. These board members are all volunteers who give their time because we believe in this worthy cause which we hope to develop further across the Algarve and throughout Portugal.”

John added that “in this context our role is very complimentary to other health services provided here in the Algarve. This hospice at home model is gaining popularity in Portugal due to its intimate way of providing end of life care and it is something the government backs as it sees value of community-based nursing and providing care at home, particularly from a financial point of view.” John explained that “it is more resource intensive from our side, as we also provide care equipment which we need volunteers to deliver to patients.”

Charity shops

In order to raise funds to support its efforts, currently, Madrugada has three Charity shops which are based in Lagoa and Lagos, as well as a boutique called Encore in Luz, offering second hand clothing. The Homestores and Boutique offer a wide variety of second-hand items at very low cost which is a further way they benefit the community.

Madrugada welcomes donations of saleable items such as furniture, bric-a-brac and clothing in good condition. John added that “we try to help other charities and the community in other ways, so we distribute stock to other good causes that we choose not to sell. We don’t sell children’s clothes so if we receive that we give it to Algarve Families in Need.”

End of life care

Clinical manager, Tanja Himming, is a nurse and a clinical lead at Madrugada and has been a nurse there since Madrugada was founded. She firstly explained that “we are always looking for experienced nurses but they should have some experience in the field and they need to have legal entitlement to work here in Portugal.”

“Madrugada provides intensive end of life care which usually lasts up to a week. Each patient is different, so a care plan or assessment is tailored to fit each patient’s needs as much as is possible. Some patients require more intensive care or nursing care for their last days and in extreme circumstances, we can offer 24-hour care, but very often we provide a night nurse.”

Madrugada also provides complimentary therapies for patients and their families which includes counselling during the patient’s illness and continued support including bereavement counselling being given following the loss of a loved one. Post-covid, Madrugada hopes to also expand on their therapies provided to again include creative activities, physical activities and group therapy.

Looking for volunteers

You can make a huge difference by getting involved in raising money for Madrugada and spreading awareness. “Madrugada is always looking for volunteers. The Clinical team rely on volunteers to help transport and distribute medical equipment, while the retail effort desperately needs drivers to pick up and deliver furniture and bigger items from their charity shops. You can also give some of your time to volunteer at their shops.”

Fundraising initiatives spread awareness which is so key to their cause and it is another way that supports Madrugada enormously in order to raise vital funds for patient care. They have ideas and more information about this on their website to help get you started. You do not need to live in Portugal to fundraise or donate to Madrugada so anyone can help outside of the Algarve.

By becoming a member, where you pay a small annual fee, you can be part of leading the direction of the association and you have a voice on important decisions affecting the direction of the cause, plus, you get the pleasure of knowing that what you are doing is making a significant difference to people in need.

Finally, John shared Madrugada’ s goal going forward: “hopefully in a couple of years’ time, Madrugada will be identified as the premier independent provider of hospice at home palliative care. We want to be in a position where we can hire more palliative nurses who are occupied full time with us as our reputation for empathy and compassionate, professional care will have gotten to the point that we are the first port of call for this type of support. Additionally, he told me that “at the moment our focus is mostly in the western and central Algarve, covering Sagres to Lagoa, but we intend to provide our services across the whole of the Algarve as soon as we can. They already have plans to open another charity shop further along the Algarve and once they have a presence there, we will want to be able to offer our support there too.”

For more information about Madrugada or if you are able to volunteer some of your time for a worthy cause, please see

Click here for more articles about the Madrugada Society and their work in the community


Following undertaking her university degree in English with American Literature in the UK, Cristina da Costa Brookes moved back to Portugal to pursue a career in Journalism, where she has worked at The Portugal News for 3 years. Cristina’s passion lies with Arts & Culture as well as sharing all important community-related news.

Cristina da Costa Brookes