A Charitable Retirement Mission in the Algarve
More than two decades ago, retired businessman Sidney Richardson traded a high-pressure career in the property and insurance sector for the sunny beaches and relaxed lifestyle of the Algarve in southern Portugal.
With 300 days of sunshine a year, stunning beaches, and world-class golf, the Algarve is now an internationally renowned tourist and expat destination. But back when Sid relocated there, the sun-kissed region was still developing. An astute businessman, he recognized the region’s massive economic potential and upon moving there, dived into various business ventures in the golf resort destination of Vale do Lobo, including running several bars and restaurants.
These businesses proved lucrative and rewarding, but then about 12 years ago, Sid’s life was transformed when he adopted a stray dog from a local animal welfare association. “She became my best friend and changed my life,” he says.
As a passionate animal lover, Sid decided to make it his retirement mission to help animals in need in the region. This led to him creating the ARA—Animal Rescue Algarve.
The Algarve is a stunning destination, with residents enjoying an outstanding quality of life. But nowhere is perfect and the ARA estimates that there are about 10,000 abandoned animals in the region, one for every 45 residents. For Sid, the solution was simple: Build a large animal rescue center with the capacity to host 600 animals and provide them with veterinary care, neutering, training, and ultimately, new homes.
After a lifetime spent in business, Sid says the charitable venture gave him a new lease on life. “It’s hard not to get emotional when speaking about this project. As a businessman, never before has any project given me such pleasure. It is very rewarding and fulfilling.”
Over an 18-month period, Sid transformed an area in a woodland valley near the city of Loulé into a spacious, eco-friendly shelter, where the animals have plenty of space to play. In the years since its founding, the ARA has grown into an internationally recognized animal welfare organization. The charity is now popular with volunteers from around the world and in November won the Host of the Month award from global voluntourism platform Workaway.
Early this year, Sid also launched a charity shop to help fund the animal sanctuary and expand awareness of its mission. Called Wooff, for worn only once fashion and furniture, the shop is located in the town of Almancil and sells second-hand furniture and clothes that are in mint condition. “We have already been praised for the quality with which we manage our shelter and how we treat our animals. With this store, we also want to stand out due to our quality,” says Sid.
The store is run solely by volunteers, who can either choose between receiving 40% of the profits of any item they sell or simply donating all proceeds to the ARA. It also serves as a platform to display animals in the ARA’s care, with images of dogs and cats available for adoption showcased throughout the shop.
Through efforts such as launching the charity shop, Sid hopes the ARA can serve as a model for similar organizations in Portugal and across Europe. “The main purpose of our work extends well beyond making sure these animals have a roof over their heads, but also we try to constantly improve the well-being of animals everywhere,” he says.
Sid is living proof that retirement is what you make of it, and that moving overseas might just completely alter your perspective on life and present you with opportunities and experiences that you had never imagined were possible.
By Charlotte Peet