The centre offers a range of social programs and everyone is welcome
By Jandy Sales
( Foto ) Executive Director Ed Graça, left, Counsellor and Volunteer Coordinator Valeria Sales and Manager of Fundraising and Communications, Gerald Luciano at the Abrigo Centre on Dufferin Street in Toronto.
Abrigo Centre opened its doors 28 years ago with the mission to offer support and assistance to Portuguese-speaking women victims of domestic violence.
The Violence Against Women and Children Program, which is the top program of the organization, is open to all women no matter their background. In 2011 alone, 173,600 women – aged 15 and older were victim of violent crime, according to Canadian police.
“We provide counseling and advocacy. We refer them to legal services. No one leaves empty-handed, regardless of their immigration status in Canada”, said counselor Valeria Sales, Abrigo Centre’s Volunteer Coordinator.
Another service offered by Abrigo Centre is the Youth Outreach Program. The non-profit conducts workshops and counseling in schools for young people aged 12 to 19 years. The conversation explores a range of subjects, such as bullying, domestic violence, stereotypes, among others.
Youth seeking help
According to Ed Graça, Abrigo Centre’s Executive Director, the Youth Outreach is a preventive program. “In one year, 1,500 youth participated in the program, and about 800 of them have sought our help afterwards.”
In the fiscal year 2017/2018, Abrigo Centre assisted 6,495 clients – a number that includes students from the Youth Outreach Program.
“They come to renew the PR card, they talk to us and the need for other services arises,” said Sales, who proudly highlighted 1,137 services provided by the Income Tax Clinic in the same fiscal year. “We work miracles.”
Abrigo Centre is located in Toronto at 1645 Dufferin Street. According to Gerald Luciano, manager of Fundraising and Communications, a recently purchased elevator made it possible for wheelchair users to access the Senior’s Program activities on the second floor.
Breaking the loneliness
The Senior’s Program has 220 members registered, and approximately 90 of them meet daily on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays for activities that include playing cards and domino, and even dancing. “I’ve made a million friends here,” said Beatriz Sias.
Last year, Abrigo Centre got the support of 93 volunteers who dedicated almost 15,000 hours of work to the institution. Elisabete and her husband, Sérgio Sarmento, both retirees, have volunteered for Abrigo since 2010.
“I help people and myself because I do not need to stay home,” she said while preparing breakfast and lunch for the seniors.
“It’s kind of a second family,” said Carlos de Melo, another Abrigo’s volunteer. He helps others to use the computer and communicate with family through social media platforms.
“Everyone has a passion for working here: staff, volunteers and students,” said Valeria Sales.
To find out about other programs, visit www.abrigo.ca