Taken from a personal account of an early visit to Can Gaza & Can Llarga October 2009 (by Babette Dekker):
Today I visited Can Gaza and the new house Casa Llarga.
I met Father JAime who is a wonderful person, he couldn´t stop talking about the needy and saying over and over how much he appreciates our help.
Can Gaza is a very special place. It is a beautiful finca and there are sheep, chickens, turkeys, goats, pigs, ducks there, which contribute to feeding the 25 to 30 men who live in the house. The men also grow their own vegetables in the growing season. It was founded more than 30 years ago with the donation of the use of the house to Father Jaime Santandreu (a real Padre) for 3 years, and the agreement has been extended and extended right up to today.
The men who inhabit the house share bedrooms and all the facilities. The house itself is kept impeccably, clean and tidy and they all seem contented and happy in their work. They live totally on the fruits of their own labours on the farm and charitable donations. The men are all around 50 years of age or over and are all chronically ill and have nothing - no homes, families or work. Some suffer from dementia, some are crippled, some have irreparable damage to liver, or heart or other organs. In summary, they are unable to live and work by or for themselves. They apply to the house and if willing to keep clean, help each other and contribute in some way to the household, then they are invited to join the household and stay there for as long as they need or wish to. Some come and go, others stay and die there.
Every day these men make one hot meal and open their doors to up to 100 more hungry homeless and helpless people who come to their door. The visitors are registered to ensure they are really in need and not eating there more than once a day - the house aims to spread what they have among as many of the needy as possible - this is where the donated additional food and vegetables go. They also share donated dry foodstuffs, clothing and blankets they receive with other needy people and families who call at the house. Their life ethic appears to be ‘to share all that they have with other needy people’.
They are also very humble. When I asked them, they did not think they needed anything and could not think of anything to ask for. After much persuasion from me (“What is it that you miss most?”) little by little they started to talk to me, and said things like “well, ...maybe we could use some bleach...... and maybe some stuff to clean with, fregonas....etc” and after they thought about it a while: “..and maybe a little shampoo or soap would be nice to have sometimes”......
They occasionally get given out of date milk that they boil for drinking if it has not gone off. They do not usually get any fresh fruit or fish, or fresh vegetables after the growing season is finished, as they are too expensive. Their greatest pleasure is when some yoghurt arrives at the house and they can have a little “dessert” - which causes great excitement. They are all lovely people, very kind, thoughtful, and they make everybody feel very welcome. All visitors to the house are invited to stay and share their home, their food, and all that they have.
Their current needs: They currently have a good stock of donated warm clothes for this winter, but they could use:
Vegetables and fish
cleaning items, like soaps, cloths, sweeping brushes etc.
Personal hygiene stuff like soap, shampoo, razors etc.
If they could get them, would love some magdalenas breakfast items other than maria cookies
The new house is not far from Can Gaza and is called Casa Llarga, it is a ruin and has again been donated to the Padre for 2 years. The residents of Can Gaza are renovating the house by themselves with a little help now and then from some builders, but there is no money to pay for help so progress is very slow. Like everything else, everybody does according to their ability to work - many are old, ill and crippled, but like the tortoise in the fairy tale, they believe will get there. It would be a dream if the house were ready for the winter as it will house 40-50 men, but without help it is not possible. [NB: Mick & Bianca Hadley now working this project and making great progress - see separate blog posts].
They have a plan to have the house habitable in some areas for some men to live there by next week. Marcelo, a very nice man who was a welder (metal worker) showed me around. The ground floor is ready but due to heavy rain and leakage, it has suffered damages , so now they are fixing the roof.