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House of Betânia Survives with Difficulties

Article published by Jornal da Região de Oeiras Newspaper, in 17/01/2002.

Elvis Fan Club helps young and adult handicapped people in Queijas

For almost 8 years that the House of Betânia, in Queijas, shelters young and adult mentally handicapped people who, by some reason, do not find in their natural families the answer for their emotional and physical needs. Presently with 12 residents, this social solidarity institution is going through major needs, only surviving thanks to the support of private entities. These are small gestures of help, but fundamental for the future of the House of Betânia, as it recently happened with the Elvis 100% Fan Club, that handed out 133 Euros.

Maria Teresa, better known as Tézinha, was the first resident of the House of Betânia. With 52 years old, she suffers from cerebral palsy, which has caused her some mobility difficulties. It was precisely thinking about her and her disability, that great part of the house, located at Rua Hintze Ribeiro, was remodeled.

Although it shelters 12 people, the House of Betânia also supports other young people who need to be guided. The house residents quickly become a true family, loved by Sister Maria João and by the Doctor Isabel Pinto, who splits her time treating and teaching these people how to have some autonomy. "All of them have their busy daily life. Some were integrated in the working environment, others are receiving some professional trainings. We have managed, in some way, to make them have a day-by-day life not much different from the rest of the society," Maria João says.

Hélder Alves is 40 years old and lives in the House for 6 years now, he is a road-mender at Lisbon's town council. As the other residents, he had to learn how to use the public transports. "It was a struggle that we had to go through with them. Each time they dedicate themselves to a new activity, we have to teach them the way, a learning process that can go on for weeks," adds Sister Maria João.

Manuel, 47, works in horticulture, besides dedicating himself to painting, while Inês and Hortense are making restoration at the Electricity Museum. Dina is responsible for the "Unique Pieces" shop, which the House of Betânia owns on the Queijas market. Paula took a cooking course, Fernanda is starting a professional training by Crinabel and her sister Fátima is just finishing grammar school. This only proves that these people must not be, in any way, victims of prejudice in our society. None of them imagines him/herself in the future living without the others: "I can't stay away from them or this house. This is our little corner," Fátima says. A family that helped them, throughout these years, to be responsible, as young Inês mentions. "I've improved a lot since I first came here and I'm more responsible with cleaning. This is my family. I visit my real family only on vacation," she adds. 

"We have recently acquired an apartment at Carnaxide, because some people already needed to move onwards, to gain more autonomy," says Maria João. Dina, Fátima and Hortense live alone now and they have at their own responsibility the normal chores of a normal house. "I've always wanted to have a little home by myself, so this is a dream come true," Dina says, the only person at the house who does not have a medically proved mental handicap and whom, for that reason, does not have the support of the social security. "Some months ago the social security subsidy that we received only covered 30% of the house's expenses. Those who work give a part of their salaries to help and, even so, we have major difficulties. There are some companies and private entities who help us in this cause," adds Sister Maria João.

"Elvis teaches us to be solidary"

Founded a year ago, Elvis 100% Fan Club has recently terminated its first annual charity campaign. The chosen institution was the House of Betânia, since some of the Fan Club's members work in Queijas and, given the present reality experienced by the House, they have asked their members to help by giving their donation to these people, who need help in order to survive. Carlos Santos, Célia Carvalho, Sandra Santos and João Simões manage this fan club which, in a year, was able to recruit almost one hundred members and intends to promote the life and legacy of Elvis Presley. "The best of Elvis was his generosity. He inclusively received an award given to the outstanding young men in America for his contribution towards the community. And as he himself said, he has the best fans in the world," Célia Carvalho mentions. "Together with our members we have been able to collect 133 Euros and, through our sponsors, Lexmark International, we have offered a printer and an art CD-ROM with the commercial value of 139,15 Euros".

This year they will start a new charity campaign, although the institution to benefit is still to be determined. One of their main goals is to become an association, in order to make some other activities. "We would be seen as more responsible and we would be able to make protocols with other entities. This will be our next step," Carlos Santos says. The fact that they become an association also means to get heardquarters, where "we would have a space to organize a video museum, to make exhibitions and other activities," he adds. Until then, the members of this fan club "want to perpetuate Elvis's good name through solidarity" and count with the help of all their associates. The official Fan Club, recognized by Elvis Presley Enterprises, Inc., is open to welcome new members through Apartado 930 in Queijas, or their website, www.elvis100.250x.com (*).

(*) - This was the previous web site of the fan club. Now the present one is this one you're visiting.

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