每日跟讀#540: In Spain, Nourishing the Body and the Soul
Angel Castillo once worked as a restaurant cook. But after losing his job and struggling with alcoholism, he has been sleeping on the streets for most of the last 16 years. It has been a while since he has worked in a restaurant, let alone eaten at one.
Yet there he was one recent evening, among the diners who crowded into a new restaurant in Madrid. It was a simple space, with red-tiled walls and paper napkins, but there were tablecloths, chandeliers and water glasses, and even someone to serve you.
“It’s special to get your food in a restaurant,” Castillo said, satisfied.
The restaurant is one of four named Robin Hood that opened in the last November in Spain to serve those who cannot afford to dine out.
The minichain’s novel business model is not to steal from the rich, but rather to use revenues made by serving breakfast and lunch to paying customers to cover the costs of preparing free evening dinners for homeless people.
It is the brainchild of the Rev. Angel Garcia Rodriguez, 79, one part clergyman, one part innovator and nonprofit entrepreneur, who has spent a lifetime working with the needy.
Unconventional down to his attire, Father Angel, as he is universally called, prefers a suit and loose tie to a collar, unless he is saying Mass, and is just as likely to hand out his business card as communion. “The priest habit is like my gala outfit,” he said with a chuckle.
Rodriguez has had long experience finding new ways that sometimes push the boundaries of how to serve the poor.
He is president of Messengers of Peace, a nongovernment organization that employs 3,900 people and 5,000 volunteers. It runs homes for older people, orphanages, centers for drug addicts and other social services.
But what all of his projects have in common is that they have helped sustain the most vulnerable Spaniards at a time of near-record unemployment and deep public spending cuts amid the lingering economic crisis. His organization also runs projects in about 50 developing countries.
These days, it is his budding string of Robin Hood restaurants that animates Rodriguez. On top of receiving basic help, he said, poor people need to regain a sense of dignity and purpose that is hard to achieve when eating in a soup kitchen.
“To get served by a waiter wearing a nice uniform and to eat with proper cutlery, rather than a plastic fork, is what gives you back some dignity,” he said.
Source article: https://paper.udn.com/udnpaper/POH0067/309696/web/