He unconditionally embraces everyone who wants to get away from drugs, without considering their origin or other factors. His protégés simply call him Tomeu. They have come to know him as a person who does his very best to assist those who need help to get away from what is threatening to destroy their lives: drugs.
For them, it is not important that Tomeu is actually a priest and that his parish is in Puigpunyent. The important thing for them is that Tomeu tries to free them from the vicious circle of drug consumption. To reach this objective, hard work is vital. This goes for Tomeu as well as for his protégés, for without their firm determination to start a life without drugs and to work hard for this goal, not even Tomeu can help. However, this is all he asks from drug addicts. He unconditionally embraces everyone who wants to get away from drugs, without considering their origin or other factors. Together with his co-workers and more than two hundred voluntaries, Tomeu looks after 450 people. In Mallorca, there are three centres where they are attended to around the clock. „People who want to get away from drugs need a physical separation from the drug milieu,“ Fr. Bartomeu explains. The first centre was created 19 years ago, with the same programme for everyone. In order to face the new profiles of drug users and also the new drugs on the market today, there are now thirteen different programmes catering for their needs.
„At the end of the day, a thirteen-year old child with first contact to drugs needs a different kind of programme than a grown-up person who has lived many years in the drug world,“ he emphasises. For those there are evening programmes from 19 to 24 hours exist for those who are not in need of 24-hour care.
Permanent employees of Projecte Home have to complete a thorough training including a practical part in the respective centres as well as education in the school in Madrid, which was created by a joint initiative of all the Projecte Home organisations in Spain. Work in Projecte Home is hard. People with drug problems tend to lie and manipulate extremely skilfully. In order to help them successfully, a lot of learning and experience is required. That is why group work is very important: everybody has had the same experiences and thus the participants are able to cotton on to each other if the situation arises. This process is lead by the therapist, but even if he has a great amount of experience, he will always be in an inferior position in comparison to his patients.
Looking for ideas in Italy
Fr. Bartomeu already chose this path a long time ago. He has always liked working with adolescents. More than forty years ago, he travelled to the United States where he had first experiences with the rehabilitation of drug addicts. Years later he taught philosophy in an Instituto in Barcelona. He says that there was a young drug addict who went only to his classes in the Instituto. His experience and commitment did not go unnoticed: when the drug problem in Mallorca left behind its shadowy existence and became a public problem about twenty years ago, politicians and church joined forces to seek possible solutions. The island’s health counsel asked the archbishop for assistance, which he rendered by recommending Fr. Bartomeu as a man of action. Two years of intense planning with weekly meetings of all involved parties followed. In Italy, the Mallorcan group discovered the Projecte Home, which was already working well there.
Fr. Bartomeu travelled to Italy and was convinced he had found the right approach. However, he understood that good intentions alone would not suffice and that only a well-educated team could assure the success of this project in Mallorca. With this, the project had a weak standing even before it had come into existence since many members of the team did not want to pay the price of the training. But Fr. Bartomeu himself spared no pains to learn and gather experience. Smiling, he recounts that sometimes he even took over the role of a drug addict – without the drugs, of course!
Almost at the same time of the creation of Projecte Home on the Balearic Islands, more centres were alos founded on the Spanish mainland. A coincidence, initiated by the ever growing drug problem. They met in Italy and found that they wanted to realise the same project. The original idea of Projecte Home was born in the USA. Today, the Spanish Projecte Home groups cooperate closely with each other. Apart from jointly running the school in Madrid, they publish a nationwide magazine. Contrary to the United States, the family plays an important role in the different programmes.
The success rate is high. According to a study, more than ninety percent of the participants quit drugs after completing the programmes. The shortest programme has a duration of 8 to 10 months, the longest three years. However, around 40 per cent of the participants abandon the programme within the first three months. Drop-outs can be readmitted, but each time they have to meet higher demands. In the 24-hour centres, drug-addicts relearn their personal responsibility. This begins with day-to-day tasks such as washing, cooking and tidying up. At a later point they begin to work intensely on their own personality and what is causing the addiction. Even the Spanish Royal Family deeply respects the lifework created by Fr Bartomeu. From time to time, members of the royal family pay visits, for example at the opening of a new centre, to support the valuable work of the centre.
Projecte Home Balears
The Projecte Home Balears has existed since 1987. The objective is the rehabilitation of drug addicts and education. It is a non-profit making organisation that has neither a politcal nor a religious orientation. In Mallorca, it runs three day centres, various flats and a kind of hospice where homeless people can eat and take a shower.There are two more centres in Ibiza and Menorca.