Caritas São Tomé and Príncipe

Caritas Sao TomeSão Tomé and Príncipe is an island nation off the coast of Gabon in West Africa, the smallest African country after the Seychelles. It gained independence from Portugal in 1975, although economic independence is still a long way off given the high rates of poverty that rank it among the world’s poorest countries.

In 2007 it was agreed to cancel São Tomé and Príncipe’s foreign debt, which amounted to US$317 million, approximately US$2,000 per person. The cancellation was thanks in part to pressure from various organisations, including Caritas.

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Caritas São Tomé and Príncipe was established in 1981 and consists of one diocese that encompasses the entire country. There are 14 parishes, 13 on São Tomé and 1 on the island of Príncipe.

The initial projects included a food programme aimed at helping those most in need, an agriculture programme to promote farming practices among young people (the country is largely agricultural), sewing classes, and a house for vulnerable children up to seven years of age called the “House of Little Children”.

A mini-project, called “A bridge of hope”, is currently being implemented with the support of Caritas Portugal, which provides for remote adoption of children in situations of risk. Via membership, each “godfather or godmother” undertakes to donate a minimum sum on behalf of a child from São Tomé and Príncipe.