A Portuguese charity is appealing for help to make its dream of a cultural centre a reality.
Casa dos Açores da Bermuda had hoped its fundraisers would pay for the extensive renovations needed to open the doors of the old Sea Cadets’ building at Admiralty House, but the coronavirus pandemic has so far stymied that plan.
The group has until the end of November to get the Pembroke building shipshape, according to the conditions of its government lease.
“With Bermuda prices we thought we were never going to afford property,” said Andrea Moniz-DeSouza, one of the charity’s founders.
“The building was old and in need of a lot of work, but to us it seemed like a jewel. We had so much faith in what we could do.
“While at this point in time the project of the renovations seems daunting due to the circumstances we find ourselves in, we are confident that we will endeavour and meet our goals.”
The charity was given the go-ahead in February for an extensive rebuild that included removing asbestos, putting on a new roof, redoing the electricals and installing plumbing and a kitchen.
However, the cancellation by Covid-19, of events such as Harbour Nights and the Bermuda Agricultural Show where the charity’s malassadas had sold well, had taken its toll.
Casa dos Açores is hoping government permission to sell the popular Portuguese doughnuts will come soon.
In the meantime, the charity is looking at other ways to raise money and is appealing to the public for help with funds or materials.
Part of its mission is to support other charities — the Bermuda Diabetes Association, Saving Children and Revealing Secrets, and Age Concern are among those it has raised funds for since its inception.
The ultimate plan is that the centre will offer classes highlighting Portuguese cooking, language, music and culture to anyone who is interested.
“It is extremely important to us that all of Bermuda’s people appreciate each other’s history and hardships and learn to come together notwithstanding all of these differences and learn to celebrate each other, understanding who we are today and where we all came from,” said Ms Moniz-DeSouza.
“Casa dos Açores is the Azorean community of Bermuda’s contribution towards this and our mandate since the formation of our charity has been to establish a community centre open to all of Bermuda’s people, where all of Bermuda can come and learn and celebrate the cultural customs, history and traditions of the Azorean community of Bermuda.”
The idea for Casa dos Açores first came about in 2015. Ms Moniz-DeSouza, who is also the Honorary Portuguese Consul, and her friends Christine Francisco, Lucia Botelho, Americo Vieira, Tony Cabral, Maria Cabral and Cidalia Cordeiro, were then talking about how more needed to be done to celebrate and promote historical and cultural ties between the Azores and Bermuda.
“Casa dos Açores’ ethos is that celebrating the melting pot of cultures in Bermuda and paying homage to the beautiful differences in all of our traditions is a crucial aspect to uniting all of Bermuda’s people,” said Ms Moniz-DeSouza.
A lawyer for a reinsurance company and the mother of two boys, Logan, 4, and Noah, seven months, she also served as president of Vasco da Gama Club from 2011 to 2014.
“When I finished my term I was done,” she said.
“I needed a break. It was an everyday job with employees, a bar to run and tenants to manage.”
She soon found there were parts of the job she missed. Casa dos Açores filled that hole.
“The things you love, you find time for,” she said.
“It is a lot of stress sometimes. I am able to do all of this because I have a great support system at home — my mother and my husband.”
She hopes the charity will act as a bridge between Bermuda and the Azores.
“They are both signatories to the Hamilton Declaration on Collaboration for the Conservation of the Sargasso Sea,” she said.
“Marine biology is very important to both islands. We really haven’t taken full advantage of the benefits which each island’s resources could provide to one another in that aspect.
“The University of the Azores has a huge research department in marine biology offering masters and PhD degrees in the area. The University of Azores could benefit Bermudians also.”