It could be said that Francis Huart is an unsung hero for his dedication to delivering food to those in need during the coronavirus pandemic, even though his selfless work has been gratefully
received by hundreds of elderly people, to those in need and to families in isolation, but not so!
His efforts were recognised in the Chief Minister’s Statement to Parliament on the 15th January this year when Fabian Picardo said: “Today I saw a report of Francis Huart, a good friend, who is trying to be a friend to everyone he can by delivering what he can as necessary. What an example he is. His is one case of so many volunteers seeking to help as much as they can.”
Francis is a married 43 year old father to three children, two boys and a girl, who has worked at the Housing Works Agency for the past twenty-five years. On the 8th March 2020 Francis posted a Facebook message offering to assist anyone who needed help as the situation deteriorated during the pandemic. The post drew a response from Daniel Massías, Director of the Eroski supermarket, who explained that drivers were needed to help deliver goods to people over 70 years of age who lived alone and were not allowed to leave home. This also led Francis to volunteering for the Housing Works Agency, delivering items to the Nightingale Hospital at Europa, as well as delivering newspapers to readers who could not leave their homes.
In mid-April he received a call from the Government of Gibraltar (GoG) at No. 6. “Tito Danino and Ivor López told me that more help was needed, not only for the elderly, but for families who were isolated at home.” With assistance from Elaine Hayes at the Contact Tracing Bureau who provided the addresses of the elderly and isolating families, Francis became an official Covid-19 Volunteer for the GoG and the help he offered knew no bounds as he added delivering prescriptions and paying bills to his good deeds, and it didn’t stop there. As he went around and about, Francis noticed many of those he visited were lonely and depressed and he took on extra roles such as driving them to the health centre or to the park for Golden Hour, which enabled those over 70 to exercise in a sheltered environment. As if that wasn’t enough, Francis carried out maintenance work on homes, even purchasing a number of boilers for some and he also assisted in helping residents whose homes had flooded.
In September, Francis 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,” Francis says.
Going out of his way to make sure everyone that needed help got it, Francis would often finish work and then volunteer for up to eight hours a day, but one thing that kept him going throughout all this has been his strong Christian faith, going to church daily to pray for the strength, energy and power to continue.
“I have been lucky to have the understanding and support of my wife, Victoria, as well as my sister Leana Rodrigues who made warm food for the elderly and my brother Jonathan who helped out with some of the heavy deliveries.”
“I would also like to thank Ruben the director from the Housing Works Agency, Steven Linares Housing Works Minister and my work colleagues, especially Alan Barcio, Raymond González and Graham Southwell. I am grateful to Tito Dannio and Ivor Lopez from No. 6 for all their help, but special thanks go to Daniel Massias from Eroski.” There are also many others who Francis would like to thank and despite the fact that the situation today is very different from that of last year, donations are still coming in. Recently the local Lincoln Red Imps football team and its owners, Dylan Viagas and Christian Laguea, donated breakfasts and snacks to school children which Francis helped to deliver.
Over the past few months Francis has cut down his volunteering but you may still see him on Sunday with the charity trolley at Eroski. “My family, especially my three kids, are really proud of what I have been doing, but it has been hard not being with them for the past fourteen months or so,” he says.
There is no doubt that Francis deserves a rest from his charitable work, but there is also no doubt that he would be one of the first to volunteer to assist the local community if the need arises again in the future.