“It’s been a tough year, but it has been rewarding to see that the people of Gibraltar are supportive and always ready to help” – Francis Huart
Since the beginning of the pandemic, Francis Huart has been volunteering his time free of charge, delivering food and other donations in his van to over 500 families in isolation as well as those who have few resources.
The Covid-19 pandemic has reminded us, not only of our fragility, but how we sometimes overlook that among us there are anonymous heroes quietly dedicating a good portion of their time to helping others.
Such is the case of Francis Huart, a Gibraltarian who, for more than a year, has been delivering food and basic necessities to those most in need; coming to the aid of over 500 families.
It all started on March 6, 2020, days before the first lockdown in Gibraltar, when Huart, a public employee, who is married with three children, posted a message on Facebook offering to assist anyone who needed a hand as the situation deteriorated.
Days later, he received a response from Daniel Massías, head of the local Eroski supermarket, explaining that people were needed to deliver their purchases to those over 70, who lived alone and who were not allowed to leave their homes.
“At first there were about 12 deliveries a day, but on April 1 my mother suffered a stroke and spent 4 months in the hospital without being able to have visitors, due to Covid, and being able to work in van carrying supplies to the elderly helped me to keep busy”, he told ReachExtra.
In mid-April, he received a call from number 6, Convent Place, the headquarters of the Government of Gibraltar. “Tito Danino and Ivor López told me that help was needed, and I started helping more people, not only the elderly, but families who were isolated at home, to deliver prescriptions and collect orders from the hospital and the elderly residences, and also to take seniors out for exercise, during ‘golden hour’”, he recalled, as he thanked Fabian Picardo’s government.
By September, Huart began assisting families with young children and those with special needs, bringing them homemade food prepared by another volunteer, Rosemarie Mañasco, and restaurant food provided by Jesse Britto, owner of The Bastion Bar.
“At Christmas, Daniel Massias provided me with gifts, toys, and Christmas food coupons for children in need,” he told us.
Huart’s charity work was canvassed on social media and has continued to arouse interest and a sense of solidarity in Gibraltar, despite the fact that the situation today is very different from that of just over a year ago.
As an example, last month the local Lincoln Red Imps football team and its owners, Dylan Viagas and Christian Laguea, donated breakfasts and snacks to school children.
And currently, Francis Huart, who has also helped some families in the nearby town of La Línea, continues to deliver donations made by anonymous Gibraltarians and assists to some 10 families, as well as to attending to any social “emergency” that arises.
6 days off in 12 and a half months
In January and February, Huart began driving people over 65 in his van to vaccination points.
In 12 and a half months, this young man with deep Christian convictions says that he has taken only 6 days off, since the beginning of his mother’s illness, and until recently he has not been able to enjoy a few more than a few free hours a day with his family.
“I keep going because everything I have experienced this year has touched my heart a lot, it has been hard mentally, I have even had insomnia after seeing so many people alone and having a hard time … but as long as there are people who need it, I am clear that I will continue to help as much as I can,” says Huart, who is grateful to have been able to count on the understanding and support of his family, as well as his co-workers during this time.
“During the first lockdown, I started doing deliveries at 8 in the morning and finished at 11 at night… Now I dedicate about 4 hours a day to this voluntary work, and about 6 hours on weekends. Even my co-workers, Ruben Rodriguez, Alan Barcio, Raymond González, and especially Graham Southwell, have come to come with me in the van and helped me with the deliveries,” he says.
“I have been surprised by the loneliness that some people have to endure, but it has also been comforting to see that the people of Gibraltar are always willing to help; that we are a strong and supportive community,” he adds, recalling that any contribution is always important, “because what might appear to be a small help for some, can be a big help for others”.