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
.” It was supposed to be a
celebration of “opulence, decadence, entertainment.” It turned out to be a flop. Portugal
The same pair of storks could gaze across to the opposite bank of the river Arade and the bankrupt town of
, 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. Portimão
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
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. US
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
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. Czech Republic
“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 <firstname.lastname@example.org>