Empowering people for zero poverty - Advocacy and Communication Forum
Tue, 02/06/2015 - 21:40

Caritas Europa organised last week an advocacy and communication forum that gathered 79 Caritas experts from 34 Caritas organisations across Europe and representatives of Caritas Internationalis.

The 3-day event took place in the Magdas Hotel, a social innovative project of Caritas Vienna, and mixed sessions of information and best practices exchange with more practical workshops and visits to social projects.

To launch the event, Caritas Europa invited Msgr. Robert Vitillo, Head of Caritas Internationalis’ delegation to the UN in Geneva, to deliver a keynote speech entitled “The Signs of the Times in the light of the Catholic Social Thought” with which he presented the upcoming global political, economic and social challenges that Caritas Europa will have to confront: war; access to universal health care; the negative perception of migration; decent work; preservation of family as the basic cell of society; ending poverty and hunger; and last but not least, tackling climate change.

Msgr. Vitillo explained how when thinking about how to stem his text he come to think of Pope Francis' speech to to the Diplomatic Corps accredited to the Holy See; “In that speech, I found a more profound and moving analysis of the ills that batter today's world,” said Msgr. Vitillo; “It was not based on macroeconomic data or the opinion of political pundits, but was rooted in the hopes and the dreams, the joys and the pains of the people made in the image of God.”

Following the keynote speech, Robert Urbé, Secretary General (ad interim) of Caritas Luxembourg, moderated an animated debate that steadily led the group into the different activities planned during the 3 days of the forum. Consult the full agenda for the detailed programme.

"I believe the seminar was a success both in terms of exchanging information and experiences as well as for the fantastic networking opportunity," said Anastasis Neophytou, Caritas Cyprus.

“t was great to meet with so many interesting individuals all doing inspiring work in their own countries to tackle poverty,”  Clare Skelton, Head of Communications at Caritas Social Network Action (CSAN - Caritas England and Wales) "Though we are all at different points on our Caritas journey, we all share the same challenges and opportunities – and it was particularly useful that we were able to assist and support each other with practical tools and techniques that we can take back to our own organisations."



“I was really taken by the story of Caritas Cyprus and their work related to people from Egypt and Syria seeking refuge. Anastasis showed the necessity of the legal assistance given by Caritas there. Caritas Spain talked about the same problems being faced by migrants trying to reach Europa and it’s all about basic human rights,” Jos de Voogd, Press Officer at Cordaid (Caritas Netherlands).



During the closing session, Helen O'Brien, Chief Executive of CSAN (link) and member of the Executive Board of Caritas Europa made the linkage with the opening speech of Msgr. Vitillo, in which he advocated a Caritas that sees and hears.

“(...) we saw and heard about many projects:

  • The small numbers and sensitivity to human dignity evidenced at Atelier 10
  • The LEO foodbanks, with huge numbers served and huge numbers of volunteers offering witness and basic needs support
  • The Magdas Hotel itself, as social enterprise and witness to our solidarity with all people
  • Platforms for advocacy which are developing
  • Support for democracy and citizenship
  • Human rights and legal support
  • The work with people at the grass-roots level – in dire need and distress.

We saw the essence of Caritas – in its work in both large and small projects.
We saw the spirit of Caritas – in our witness.
We saw the strength of Caritas – in our network and our solidarity,” said Ms O’brien.


Magdas Hotel – The "I like it" hotel

The forum was organised in the premises of the Magdas Hotel, a social innovative project of Caritas Vienna to open labour market to refugees by offering jobs and trainings.

"The name of the hotel, Magdas, comes from German Mag das, which means I like it, explained Ariane Gollia, Magdas Hotel Sales Manager.

Asylum seekers and refugees have difficulties in finding jobs in Austria. They are not allowed to work while the procedure is ongoing. And that can take a lot of time. Maryam, who helps customers in the restaurant of the hotel, knows very well about this. Her application took 12 years before being granted.

With Magdas Hotel, Caritas wanted to make a political statement that whoever lives in Austria legally should also be able to work legally. Instead, many refugees are somehow “condemn” to remain unemployed for very long period of times independently of their skills and competences. Through Magdas, people are learning different ways of relating to migrants.

“Staying in Magdas hotel, hearing about LEO project, visiting Magdas community complex, Gallery 10 and INIGO restaurant meant that such social business activities are possible. They may not be easily put in work in the Czech Republic now, but it can happen in the near future,” said Jitka Kozubková, Communication Manager at Caritas Czech Republic.

A former retirement home renovated into a fresh hotel. To achieve that, Caritas invested €1.5 million and crowdfunded another €60,000. It employs 28 people, 20 out of them are refugees in Austria. 

More about Magdas - http://www.magdas-hotel.at/en/home/


For more information

Alain Rodriguez
Communication Officer
Caritas Europa