13 Mar 2021
13 min

Not even the olive trees' shade made the heat that was felt that afternoon in Alandroal, Alentejo, bearable. It was probably 40ºC in that olive grove with an intense smell of olives; we could see a rural house with a dozen young people in action, between cement buckets, brushes and hammers. A heterogeneous group, with as many men as women, what they had in common was just their good mood and a t-shirt with the logo of their cause: Just a Change, “a non-profit association that rebuilds the homes of impoverished people”, explained the group's spokesman, Simão Oom, the director of operations.

The house belongs to Mr. Fascelino - it is said that he is the only one with this name in Portugal - a man who is over 60 years old and who lives by himself over there, with no family, and far from both large and small social gatherings. From the entrance, where his bathroom was being built, a long corridor gave access to three other bedrooms. A good house, with generous areas, but with no conditions or comfort. "But now it's going to get much better, it's already getting better," said the resident. 

A project to reach the whole country

This year EDP strengthened its partnership with this Association, notably through investment in efficient services and equipment, and began to mobilize volunteers not only in Lisbon, but also in Porto and other areas in the country. For Simão Oom, it means much more than "money, it encompasses all the value that EDP brings to the beneficiaries who end up having a much more comfortable and efficient house." More than 500 EDP volunteers are already collaborating in this project and have participated in the rehabilitation works. "EDP is very involved in Just a Change projects, especially with regard to energy efficiency. The thermal insulation that the project is acquiring for the houses is co-funded by EDP Comercial," assures Carla Barros from the EDP Volunteer Program team. In addition to funding the purchase of these materials, EDP Comercial also contributes in the follow-up and monitoring of the energy efficiency measures implementation, especially by identifying improvements through the conducting of energy pre-certifications, before and after the construction, to allow for an acknowledgement of the evolution and rehabilitation in the houses. Further support provided by EDP Comercial includes the donation of efficient equipment, such as solar self-consumption, equipment for water heating and household appliances. EDP Comercial also funds the acquisition of efficient windows, essential for increasing thermal comfort and improving the house's energy efficiency. 

Despite all this, the greatest of the works done here is the social one. These are people who need more than just a house, they need to be involved, so that the reconstruction of their lives can take place in parallel with the reconstruction of the house. Mr. Fascelino or Mrs. Maria Amelia can confirm this.

From a few changes to the reconstruction of lives

The Just a Change project was born in 2010, almost as a joke. At the time, it started out with two friends who were heading to Baixa de Lisboa to sing in order to scrounge up some money - just a change - and who soon began to spend that same money on the many homeless people in the area. First, they took us to dinner, "to eat some 'bifanas' and 'caldo verde'," and then we thought: "if it is so easy for us to collect some money here that can make a difference in the lives of these people, why not bring more friends and start doing it more often?", says Simão Oom. And so it happened. But since there were already many associations in the fight against food poverty, these two friends - who were joined by other volunteers - thought of helping in another way. "At the time, a person came up in need of some minor works at home. And we, oozing with good will, but with very little experience, went there with some paintbrushes and a can of paint and started painting the house. And this was when we realized that we could intervene in the fight against housing poverty," Simão Oom explained.

What started as a small project, Just a Change, quickly became so much more, the brand of an association that makes a difference in people's lives, with works in the houses of those most in need, who often lack even a roof or a bathroom - the core tasks of every work.

Carla Barros

"EDP teams up with Just a Change for an integrated response with volunteers participating in the home rehabilitation shifts with what distinguishes us from others, our energy."

Carla Barros, manager of corporate volunteering at EDP

A partner full of energy...

Ten years have passed and the project has always been growing, at the pace of new requests from the municipal and parish councils throughout the country, which signal the houses that need urgent intervention from Just a Change. "We believe that by doing this work we are giving a second life to these people we meet, who live in very precarious situations and without dignity," says Simon Oom. And the figures speak for themselves: more than 1,000 volunteers a year, with 12 people working full-time on Just a Change, and with over 230 houses rebuilt and more than 230 lives rehabilitated. The figures are a source of pride for the association and would not be possible to achieve without the partnership of EDP, who has teamed up with the project since 2018 through the Volunteer Program, along with the partnership with EDP Comercial, since 2019, as well as the support of about 500 volunteers who dedicated over 3000 hours to 49 projects. Thanks to the energy of EDP volunteers, 40 houses and 10 NGOs have been rehabilitated, changing the lives of 706 beneficiaries. "More than just intervening in the houses, this project seeks to bring hope to families in need through dignified housing. EDP teams up with Just a Change for an integrated response with volunteers participating in house rehabilitation shifts with what distinguishes us from others, our energy - namely through: installation of solar panels, water heating equipment, as well as other efficient equipment," says Carla Barros.

In addition to this, the company also provides pro-bono services such as energy pre-certifications and energy efficiency monitoring in the remodelled houses. Since the beginning of this partnership, EDP has already issued 46 pre-certifications, donated 19 equipments and installed a solar panel.

This is just one of EDP's volunteer projects on the Energy Inclusion axis of the Group's social investment strategy. Another project on this axis, which has also benefited from the partnership with Just a Change, is the Electricity Exchange and Energy Efficiency Checkers. This Volunteer Pool, which has been in existence since 2013 and is managed in partnership with E-Redes, supports NGOs through two intervention areas: electricians pool - execution of qualified electrical repair services - and energy efficiency checkers pool - evaluation and presentation of energy efficiency measures proposals. Since the beginning, this project involved the participation of 125 volunteers, who have contributed over 2000 hours to combat energy poverty as well as turn about 37 social organizations into more efficient entities, impacting the lives of over 36,000 beneficiaries.

A world of initiatives

The partnership with Just a Change is just one of the collaborations that mobilizes EDP. The volunteer program streamlines numerous other initiatives, in partnership with the company's business areas, with the aim of supporting third-sector organizations in the development of projects which promote access to renewable energy, thermal comfort, energy saving and safety. Besides, the program EDP Solidarity Program, by EDP Foundation, in the area of Social Inclusion, whose last edition took place in 2018, provided an allocation of one million euros to support initiatives related to thermal comfort and energy precarity.

Aiming for the same goal, the A2E Fund, already in its third edition, is a funding program that offers half a million euros for initiatives in education, healthcare, agriculture, business and community projects, thus counteracting the impact of energy poverty in various countries, namely Mozambique, Nigeria, Malawi, Angola e Ruanda.


And in other EDP geographies?

In Spain, neighbours not only share their food, but they also share their energy. From solar neighbourhoods to NGOs support, in Spain EDP also assumes its role in promoting energy efficiency.

And how about the other side of the Atlantic?

For EDP Brazil, energy efficiency is synonymous with invitation to tender.