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Marist Brothers in Barcelona’s Gótico Neighborhood

06/02/2010: Spain

Many transformations have occurred in Barcelona’s Gótico district over recent years. Real estate speculation caused the departure of many long-time neighborhood families, leaving an elderly population behind. Pockets of poverty have taken root, and serious problems have sprung up due to drugs, prostitution, violence, delinquent behavior. In addition, large numbers of immigrants have moved into the area: North Africans, Pakistanis, Latin Americans, Chinese, Romanians.

To respond to the resulting problems, a civic association known as “Gabella” came into existence in l986 with links to the Marist Brothers. At the present time, Gabella coordinates three social-help programs.

First is the “Centro Abierto Compartir,” which is open every day and provides an environment where young people can find help in doing their school assignments and make up for class lessons which they have missed. In addition, the Center aims at helping the children acquire relational and social skills, and develop proper eating habits.

The second program is Club Futbol Sala, which serves about fifty young people aged ten to twenty-one. Through its sporting activities, the program endeavors to foster values such initiative, team work, social integration, and the skills needed to overcome personal difficulties. In January 2009, the Club Futbol Sala was featured in a program on TV3. In the show, one of the volunteers told of his experiences working at the center.

Centro Juvenil, the third program, is located just adjacent to the Gótico neighborhood and looks after a dozen adolescents twelve to sixteen years of age. The Center’s goal is to be a place where young people can meet up with one other and receive some kind of practical formation. Activities develop around the concerns and interests of the young people themselves. The activities encourage value formation, tolerance and dialogue. In addition, the qualities of good sportsmanship are promoted: teamwork, fair play, solidarity, the proper spirit of competition.

During the day, four Marist Brothers work at the center, teaming up with three social workers. Together, they carry out educational services in conjunction with the neighborhood’s social services and with nearby schools. Centro Juvenil is very committed to a “pedagogy of prevention.” Recently the Center set up an initiative to assist the young people in finding jobs. To that end a training course was offered that focused on the skills needed to become a waiter in restaurants or similar establishments.

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