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Calpe House award acknowledges vital role of Gibraltar’s ‘home from home’

Photos by Eyleen Gomez

Calpe House received the Gibraltar Award at a reception at Gibraltar’s ‘home away from home’ on Wednesday afternoon, with the Governor Vice Admiral Sir David Steel presenting it to chairman of the trust, Albert Poggio.

Also present was the Chief Minister, Fabian Picardo, Gibraltar representative to the UK, Dominique Searle, directors of the trust Ian McGhie and Deborah Huxley, and the staff and current residents of Calpe House.

“I cannot begin to tell you what a joy it is to be here today,” said the Governor.

“Having just been here over a month or so ago, I learnt more about Calpe House than I could ever have done by reading the papers.”

“Because I learnt of the importance of Calpe House, not just to those who are not very well and are receiving treatment in London, but to those who look after them as well.”

“And I know that here today, there are some members of our community that are receiving some very serious treatment in the hospitals around London and yet their other halves, their better halves and their families are being looked after here.”

“I know from past experience that it is the carer that probably needs more help at this moment in time than the cared for.”

“So my heart goes out to everybody here today and what you have to go through.”

“But I am also overjoyed that you have this facility to benefit from while you are undergoing treatment or looking after those who are undergoing treatment.”

It is 30 years since Calpe House opened its doors and the tradition of ‘a home from home’ in London for those receiving treatment began.

The Governor praised the “stunning foresight” of the founding members of Calpe House and paid tribute to them.

“They made Calpe House what it is today, an amazing institution that is part of Gibraltar,” he said.

He recalled when he sat down with the Chief Minister to chair the Honours Board recently, they looked at Calpe House in great detail and they wondered how they could properly recognise the charity, its staff and its trustees.

“To our minds there was only one award that was possible and appropriate,” he said.

“And it is the award that the Queen approved back in 1954, the only Overseas Territory award given by the community [Gibraltar] to people in Gibraltar to say thank you for the outstanding achievement and support to the people of Gibraltar.”

“I would like, with the Chief Minister on behalf of the Honours Board of Gibraltar, to present to Calpe House the Gibraltar Award,” he added, noting it is the first time it has been given to an institution rather than an individual.

The Governor likened it to the occasion when the George Cross was presented to the island of Malta and to the NHS.

Having presented the award to Mr Poggio, the Chief Minister then spoke and said the Calpe House transcends party politics.

He said that Calpe House was important to the psyche of the Rock’s residents, not just to know it was there but also to know it has the support of successive Governments of Gibraltar and that will always be the case.

He recalled that the need to expand on the original Calpe House was brought to his attention when he became Chief Minister and that he took the decision to invest in the new facility at Norfolk Square.

“It’s the first time I have been able to come visit this facility…and I am blown away,” he said.

“Not just to see that so many of you are taking the benefit of it but that the bricks and mortar that I saw that we were investing in, I saw the refurbishment of, have had the heart added into it by the magnificent staff of Calpe House.”

All of them give support to those who most need it at a time in their lives when they most need to hear a friendly voice and Llanito twang, he added.

He told the guests he believed that if each of them were offered a stay at the most luxurious hotel in London for the length of time they needed to stay, they would rather stay at Calpe House. A murmur of yes and nods of heads came from those very guests upon hearing this.

Referring to the award, he said: “This expression of the gratitude of the people of Gibraltar is a small expression of how the whole of Gibraltar feels about Calpe House and the magnificent work you do.”

“But I hope it is a little demonstration that can go on the walls of this place and that can always remind people of how Calpe House transcends the political arena in Gibraltar and has reached the hearts of every Gibraltarian. Not bad for 30 years’ work, congratulations.”

Mr Poggio addressed the room and told them he could begin to explain how proud he was to accept the award on behalf of the trust and the many people involved in Calpe House.

“It’s been a lifetime of work for some of the trustees, 30 years is ever such a long time,” he said.

“And I have to thank you because I remember you [Mr Picardo] coming here with me and you saying ‘Albert, go ahead and buy it’. Buy a property in London and you can never go wrong.”

He spoke about how Calpe House is a team, and it was a team that keeps the place going.

“That team consists of the trustees, the board of directors who give many hours of their time to offer advice to ensure that we meet all the legal requirements that we as a charity have to.”

“We then have a subcommittee in Gibraltar that consists of 10 people who devote much of their time to raise money for us, because this is ongoing. This building requires a lot of maintenance and so on.”

“And then of course we have the London team and we are very proud of our London team because they are delivering the vision that we had for Calpe House and they are doing it over and above the call of duty.”

He recalled they were there during Covid, including helping look after house residents with Covid.

“I want to take this opportunity to thank Dee, Jaime, Joe, Louis, the cleaning team, everybody that plays a part in keeping this place,” he added.

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