Brazil & Portugal  


Technology barriers: A reality for Abrigo clients and counsellors

Humanity is resilient and has  the power to rebuild and grow




By Marta Santos | 6/12/2021

Aside from a very few, generation after generation around the world have never faced a pandemic like COVID- 19. Yet, history records that those before us experiencing a pandemic faced the same destruction of health, heartbreak and family devastation we are living through today. It also proved that humanity is resilient and has the power to rebuild and grow. We are masters of the comeback, through ingenuity, creativity and most importantly love.

People are manufacturers of hope, and we must counter every blow by getting right back up. Through this year’s pandemic, we have the fortunate evolution of technology and the ability to harness the digital universe to guide and assist people to find help their better place in the world.

As a counsellor at the Abrigo Centre, I provide support to women, youth, other adults and families that primarily speak Portuguese. I have witnessed first-hand the impact COVID-19 has on my clients. The endless months of social isolation has caused a significant impact on the mental health and wellbeing of many individuals especially seniors, vulnerable individuals and those at risk.

Like most businesses navigating their way through this pandemic, Abrigo has enabled its employees to work digitally from home. However, we are only half of the equation. It is important to recognize the significant percentage of the population we work with who do not have access to the digital world, a computer and an email address for example, because of financial constraints, lack of education, age, mental health issues or a variety of other reasons.

This creates obstacles to providing the best possible counselling services. My colleagues and I experience this more so around instrumental needs – obtaining information to file government forms for example – rather than counseling needs, which can be completed via a telephone call. Over the last 10 months, I find myself supporting and advocating for individuals with no technology capabilities significantly more than in the pre-COVID days with in-person meetings when a client could simply hand me a stack of papers.

Let’s take email as one example. Perhaps the simplest and easiest means of digital communication in a professional manner, owning an email address is now required for most online government portals and institutions today. For those individuals without an email address attached to their name, and we see many, the result is a longer wait to receive the financial benefits they are entitled to. This directly causes a greater financial burden on that individual and their family.













A large percentage of the senior population Abrigo serves is dependent on others in some way.  I regularly hear from many seniors and others in need, “I am not sure how to do this” or “I don’t know how to use that.”, when discussing technology. 

Tech-savvy grandchildren, neighbors, community members, friends, and relatives – those of you in their social bubble – please show them the ropes. Help them set up that email account so they can keep their records, show them how to receive and send a virtual call.

Teaching a parent, grandparent, friend, or co-worker how to use a virtual platform can help break social isolation by connecting them with family and friends around the world. A level of patience may be required but let’s show them how.

Technology is helping to give citizens an improved quality of life through increased connectivity and a sense of community. Connecting and rebuilding is what our generation must do. Ours is one to drive a better future. Humanity must come together to bring people together.

We must run toward our fear and tear down anxieties by reminding ourselves we are not alone, and neither is our neighbor or client.

The importance of connecting and sharing knowledge, providing access and information to newcomers, the illiterate, the under educated, seniors, and those low-income workers who are not yet connected to technology in some form is crucial. It is our marking point.

We must all help one another through this. Let’s rebuild in 2021 by staying connected and evolving together.


About the DISCOVER Connection:   Our main focus is to connect, integrate and support the Portuguese-speaking community in Canada.

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Marta Santos

Marta Santos is a qualifying Psychotherapist and registered Social Service Worker with a degree in Psychology. For the last three years, she has been a counsellor with Abrigo’s Violence Against Women program. She is passionate about mental health and providing support for those suffering from intimate partner abuse.

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