The West End Angels, 24-7
You might not be familiar with the 24-7 organisation. Though they do not blow their own trumpet too loudly, their work in the wild West End of San Antonio is nothing short of inspiring.
They undertake several support roles including a highly valued drop in centre for summer workers, and as a Christian group they offer prayer and spiritual guidance. It is in their nightly patrols of San Antonio’s West End streets caring for those that are sometimes beyond caring that they do a job above and beyond.
Few people would relish the prospect of dealing with the worst of the over-intoxicated young people Ibiza has to offer, but that’s exactly what 24-7 do, night after night, year after year—14 years to be exact.
I guess to do the job they do it has to be a calling—and for the people at 24-7 that is exactly what it is.
In this feature Sophia Valentine interviews project leader Charlie Clayton, we have a sample 24-7 blog giving a view of a typical night in their work, and also the comments of one West End businessman who sees their work up close and personal.
My first thought for a headline was “the God Squad” – but I have not been able to speak with project leader Charlie Clayton today to ask him whether that would be considered offensive. If it is not offensive I present to you The God Squad, if it is I’ll stick with Angels. (you can’t go wrong with Angels can you?)
Can you tell us a bit about 24-7 Ibiza and its purposes?
The 24-7 Ibiza organisation has been operating in the West End since 2000, and the drop in centre has been open since 2006. Our aim is to show the kindness of God to all we meet, which hopefully is reflected in all that we do here in San Antonio. We love to help people connect with God and to make prayer accessible. We exist to care for the spiritual, emotional and physical wellbeing of the local community
As we’re part of a prayer network, Prayer is really important to what we do. There is a creative prayer room in our drop in centre, that people can come and use to have some time out and reflection, write a prayer request on the wall or use the different resources that are in there to connect with God.
We are also very involved practically in community life and you can find our teams running our workers centre in the daytime, walking around the streets at night time offering assistance, giving out oranges on the beaches, visiting Ibiza prison and generally being involved in all that goes on here in San Antonio.
We love to give out ‘Jesus Loves Ibiza’ bibles and for those that want to find out more about faith, we hold an informal service on Sundays from 7pm – 7:45pm.
What is 24-7 Ibiza’s relationship with the Police and medical services?
We have a great relationships with the medical centre (who we spend a lot of time with in the season!) and the local police know us well, often calling us to help people who they have found who need assistance. The Guardia also know of our services.
Can you tell us about the 24-7 Ibiza team, and how people get involved?
Every December we advertise online that we are seeking volunteers for the summer. An application form can then be completed by those wishing to get involved. Our teams are pre-planned. We have around 70 volunteers across the season, mostly from the UK but also involves people from the local Spanish community.
What is an average day like for a 24-7 Ibiza volunteer?
From Monday to Friday, 4pm – 8pm, we open our workers centre. There are around three to four people in our team at the drop in centre daily. People come in to use the computers (being PC’s, Wii and Playstation), play table tennis, chat, and use the prayer room. We also give out information about local services and are able to help when difficulties arise. On Wednesdays, we also offer a free massage service for female workers. This is available between 4.30pm until 7.30pm. The workers have to visit the centre and sign up for this service.
What is an average night like for a 24-7 Ibiza volunteer?
There is never an average night in what we do!! On the nights Monday to Saturday, 11.30pm until 5am, the team will split into two groups. Half stay in the prayer room and half go out on the street, swapping every hour. They offer prayer and pass out ‘Jesus Loves Ibiza’ bibles to those that would like them. If we find someone is in need of help, or lost, we offer to take them back to their hotel/apartment, take them to the medical centre if they are injured, or worse, call an ambulance. We have wheel chairs and an aptly named ‘vomit van’ to help us do this. Bar owners and PR’s also telephone us, having a 24-7 Ibiza wristband with our telephone number on.
Can you give us an example of a positive day for a 24-7 Ibiza volunteer?
We love the West End and everyone that we get to meet. The friendship from the workers here really encourages those that come out on team. It does feel very positive though when we know we’ve been involved in a situation that if we weren’t, it could have been much worse, and that the people are safer because of us.
Can you give us an example of a not so positive day?
In the midst of the season there are some very difficult situations that arise and it can be hard to witness some of the more extreme drug and drink reactions in the street. Last season we helped around 800 people in total, many of them involving the medical centre and services.
In terms of support, how can people help 24-7 Ibiza?
As a registered Charity, it is mainly finance that we need. We are fully reliant on donations for all aspects of our work, which mostly comes from the UK. Most of our volunteers also come over from the UK every year for the summer so people wise we are well covered, although local people do also get involved. Those involved in the main parts of our work are committed Christians, as a lot of what we do in our work is offer prayer and share about our faith. Information about how you can donate and join a team can all be found on our website.
We found her sat on the toilet – shorts down, knickers down, slumped over and completely out of it.
The door was ajar, and Kate and I squeezed through to sandwich her in and keep anyone else out. The vulnerability of this girl was just massive. The bar owner was concerned for her, but also wanted her to get out of the toilet so that the other punters could use it.
We began to try to move this girl, quickly pulling her clothes up so she was covered and dressed properly. We started trying to talk to her, explain who we were, and begin to ask her a few questions about herself – where she was staying, what her name was, how she was feeling etc. At regular intervals we lifted her so she was sat more upright, trying to encourage her to stand up and move out of the cubicle; she clearly felt unwell, and also clearly felt happy to tell us exactly what she was feeling. Most attempts at conversation with her ended in her telling us to f*** off, and a fair amount of flailing arms trying to push and hit us away.
Eventually we moved a chair into the cubicle and hoisted her onto it; after some more protesting, we began to shuffle the chair out of the cubicle, and towards the exit of the bathroom. Then she was sick – not much, but enough to sober her up significantly. Moving herself then onto another chair in the main bar area, we began to talk to her about how she was feeling and what she wanted to do. Her annoyance and frustration at us soon turned to vulnerability again – fears of who was surrounding her, fears of being on her own, and fears of being sick again. She announced her hotel name and promptly got on her feet and began to walk with us towards where she was staying. As we walked she began to apologise and insist that she would be ok on her own…unfortunately, the 24-7 Team are as stubborn as they come, and can think of a thousand reasons for why it’s best for us to walk with someone…so we continued on with her.
Getting her into her hotel was so easy, and as we tucked her into bed and went to turn the light off before leaving, she called out ‘Love you!’…we called back ‘Love you too!’, and closed the door.The ruggedness of kindness which takes a battering at first, to give way to grace and hope. There is something of God all over how these situations tend to play out, and they definitely sharpen your prayers and eyes of faith!
A few nights later 2 of the team were with a guy for 3 hours – he had one shoe and shorts on, had come off the back of a massive 3-day bender and had no-where to sleep. They ended up in the reception area of a hotel, where the receptionist was kind enough to let him sleep in a chair whilst we were there. When I swapped in with them, I could see that they had used almost every ounce of energy and hope to try and help this guy somehow, and had done a phenomonal job. I sat with him and another team member for the following 2 hours, purely to give him a chance to sleep before he had to go back onto the streets, this time with some water and a blanket. No happy ending, no nice resolve and lots of waiting… but a little bit more rested, and as I watched him sleep on as the night turned more and more into morning, it struck me again that kindness is rugged and grace is so often bound up with anguish of sorts.
I have just got in from a van night where we spent 2 and a half hours getting a guy home; he was only staying a 15 minute walk from where we were in the end, but it took most of that time to convince him that he needed some help! It is interesting how often people refuse to accept that they are in need of help initially. Maybe it’s quite a British thing? Maybe it’s just a human thing.
I do feel like September is going to launch a whole new wave of busyness – the West End was busier tonight than it’s been in a few weeks, and we are gearing up for another few weeks of getting really involved in the happenings of this place. May the ruggedness of the kindness of God be seen and known here in the West End through the unusual and challenging encounters with those that we meet, as well as the ones that have an ease about them, And may the anguish of grace draw us closer to the heart of Jesus, who has surely known anguish and ruggedness so much more than we have.
September – we are ready for you!
Sean Conway at The Huddle.
I’m well aware of the work of 24-7. I got to know Brian and Tracy when they first set up the Ibiza branch of the organisation… one that I’d never heard of till that point. They we’re out on the street handing out bits of fruit to workers and tourists. Naturally, I thought it was some kind of PR stunt for a club or bar, so was rather surprised to find out the truth.
As a tourist once put it to me… “So, group are just going round talking to people and then picking up drunks and taking them to their hotel or the hospital, and they’re not selling anything?”
I’ve seen them, over the years, carry away hundreds of drunk, confused people and get them cared for. Many of them have been abandoned or become detached from a group of friends and left alone in the street. The majority of them have got themselves into their situation due to the over-indulgence in all that Ibiza has to offer. But, there’s no questioning or moralising on the part of 24/7… they see someone in trouble and they’re there to help.
I’ve seen them take abuse at times, get covered in vomit, questioned by the police and not receive a word of thanks from those they help. They’ve been accused of being a pirate taxi service and drug dealers, none of which have deterred them from their voluntary duty.
I suppose, in a way, they are PRs. Just not for a bar or a nightclub. Brian once told me that the best way they could spread the word of God, and how much he cares for us, was by showing a practical example of this to people.
The group continues, under new leadership, and they’ll still be on the street tonight helping those that have over-indulged. The bar owners, police, ambulance staff and the casualties themselves, owe 24/7 a big debt of thanks.
Sean Conway runs a well known Uruguayan Bar in the West End call the Huddle.
Find them at Calle Colon 7
+34 635 79 38 23