Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Luxury and hunger in Portimão

A pair of storks in their nest atop a tall brick chimney towering above what used to be a sardine factory and is now a major convention centre, looked down without expression as the grandly titled ‘Carnival of Luxury’ came to an ignominious end.
Designed to attract the rich and famous, it had been billed as the “ultimate lifestyle fair being hosted for the first time in Portugal.” It was supposed to be a celebration of “opulence, decadence, entertainment.” It turned out to be a flop.
The same pair of storks could gaze across to the opposite bank of the river Arade and the bankrupt town of Portimão, reputedly the most indebted municipality in the country, with its rows of abandoned shops. On the last day of the Carnival, the Portimão Soup Kitchen was serving meals to many hungry and homeless citizens.
It seemed repugnant to many that an exhibition of opulence should be staged in such a depressed location in one of Europe’s poorest countries at a time of crippling unemployment and austerity.
The Carnival of Luxury failed, say its critics, because the organisers, a company called Vida de Luxe based in Malta and Hong Kong, badly overestimated the number of companies wanting to exhibit their sumptuous wares and the number of visitors willing to pay an entrance fee of €50.
And then there were the exaggerations. Early on, the official website trumpeted that former US president Bill Clinton would be attending as a VIP guest. Not only had he not agreed to come, he had not even been formally asked, according to a reliable source. Right to the end, the website said the VIP guest list included John Roberts Jr, US Supreme Court Chief Justice. One of the sponsors admitted that no one that important showed up.
Apart from the organisers and the relatively small number of exhibitors, few were surprised that the event flopped. It seemed doomed from the start.
The opening gala dinner attracted less than a quarter of the hoped-for crowd of well-heeled bon vivants. Even though the €50 entrance fee for ordinary visitors was quickly dropped altogether, not many people showed any interest in looking around for free. One of the most prominent exhibitors, with half a million euros worth of exquisite silverware on show, said, “I had only two potential buyers and sold nothing.”
Exhibitors started packing up early. “Business Monday” was cancelled. The planned five-day spectacular closed amid humiliation and rancour after day four.
Meanwhile, the Portimão Soup Kitchen across the way continued to serve meals to people in desperate need. When a few International Christian Fellowship volunteers set up the kitchen three years ago, they began by feeding 12 to 14 people once a week. The need has greatly escalated and now 20 volunteers, backed by other outside helpers, feed up to 95 people three times a week.
The age of those benefiting from the service ranges from seven to seventy. Most of the people who come are Portuguese, but there are also migrant workers from the Ukraine, Moldavia, Romania, Czech Republic. Some are completely homeless and sleep rough in abandoned buildings or wherever they can find a place to shelter. Others have somewhere to stay but no money to buy food.
“If we had more funds and more volunteers we might be able to open another day of the week,” says Joy Borgan, one of the founders of the soup kitchen.
“Last Sunday someone came to the kitchen about an hour after we had closed and we were mopping the floor ready to lock up. He told us he had not eaten that day or the day before. Even though we had already fed almost 80 people and had been standing for several hours and were tired and ready to go home, how could we turn him away? How could we not continue to help people when there is such a need in Portimão?”

* If anyone would like to help or be involved with the Portimão Soup Kitchen in any way, please contact Joy Borgan on 91 735 8098 or 282 04 28 36, or email <>


  1. Well done for saying all this - and so generously keeping out of your post the fact that the PJ and SEF have been investigating the main carnival organiser over "crimes practised in England" (Diário de Notícias, 27th April).
    This was truly a repellent idea for a region so steeped in economic and social problems, and, for once, repellent ideas got what they deserved.

    1. Maybe the event was done in wrong place and for the wrong people , but it is definitely didn’t encourage people to read pass first page of newspaper a type journalism that presents little or no legitimate well-researched news and instead uses eye-catching headlines to sell more newspapers. Using techniques that include exaggerations of news events, scandal-mongering, or sensationalism, as the reader of such press would never go pass headlines or the next addition were to avoid law suits they print retractions. If you so believe, what you read you should read articles in (Diário de Notícias, 28th April, not of first page, but page 9 and also (Diário de Notícias, 30 of April ) to be up to date with story, as by posting comment here , I am sure, you picture you self as intelligent and educated person. And for the organizers all I can say is that before they diced spend all this money , they should did a better research on place. Because if they did they would know that this is bottomless pit without appreciation, goals or future, as long as foreigners coming for summer they can exist, because living is not for this part of the world

    2. It would have been nice of all the people that are scrutinizing and criticizing the event organizers, would start really looking into matters and finding out the truth.

      Some people are just jealous and vindictive to such extent that they have to ruin other people's good intentions.

      The gala dinner- which I had the pleasure to attend was exquisite and proceeds are going to charity.
      Two charities were the official charities of the event , Vida Mais and ADM estrela, which are supporting people in need and fighting human trafficking, so when you start judging and condemning people please first find out what is going on.

      The place of the gala dinner was 2/3 full, and i do know that a number of people bought tickets to the dinner - knowing it was also a charity dinner- but did not show up for personal reasons. So saying only a quarter was full, that is not true, and who ever fed you with that kind of information was not present.

      When people would have opened their eyes and ears they would have heard the good parts and the donations that are being given from that event, and when the press was more favorable maybe it would have gotten more positive publicity and more people would have showed up hence there would have been MORE DONATIONS.

      So please as journalists , bloggers and even readers , stop jumping to conclusions so fast.

      The soup kitchen is also supported by people whom i know personally and some of them are part of the Vida Mais organization, maybe the soup kitchen needs more publicity, more donations and help of us people to be there and help, but that does not mean that other people can not come and enjoy some beautiful things existing in this world.
      Its high time that people in the Algarve will stop thinking small and start seeing that the world has a lot to offer, and maybe if we put it more in front of them people here will start believing that they can dream and act upon their dreams again, and start being productive towards their dreams.
      whatever they may be.

      So mockery is not the answer. acting and making sure both sides of the coin gain from any event in the Algarve is what we need to do.

    3. Very interesting news about the charities, but it is not easy to check out. There does not appear to be any "Vida Mais" charitable organisation. There is a "Vida Mais Viva" association, with only a facebook identity... but no "Vida Mais".
      In fact, the only online reference to the Vida Mais charity comes from the Carnival of Luxury site, with the tag: "Helping you succeed in Life ...
      We are proud to support VidaMais Charity in its efforts to help all those who need it, in every way possible"
      Helping who succeed in life?
      Any more information?

    4. Just check please the following link....

      or also

      and maybe you should meet the same people that are working relentlessly in this organization before claiming its a fake.

      I reiterate and emphasize what i wrote yesterday:
      before writing anything or even talking, please and i beg of you people please check the facts, this is just another example of defamation based on not knowing the real facts.

  2. Although I appreciate the indignation at such an event, calling it repugnant and repellent does miss the point. In fact one could argue that what the Algarve and, indeed, the whole of Europe needs is for wealthier individuals and countries to start spending their money. However I do agree that it was the wrong idea at the wrong time and, most certainly, in the wrong place.

  3. As I was part of the fair, of course like any other thing, it has its positive and negative. But as written in the comments before mine, there were 2 charities in the event and some of the money that was raised in the event is going to the charities. One is Rede VidaMAIS and the second is ADM. It is simple to look for the organizations. At the same time, the VidaMAIS organization helps the soup kitchen. In fact VidaMais is the one that got it to be from 1 meal a week to three times a week! Just ask the people who are involved!