Many expatriates, to their enduring credit, undertake a lot of charity work in Spain. This is a somewhat unusual concept for the Spanish (as something of a generalisation!), who seem not to have quite the same sense of noblesse oblige as the British.
In fact, many of my expatriate friends and acquaintances spend a good part of their time in doing charity work in Spain – most notably for The Original Charity Shop in Javea. This has been enormously successful and consistently raises very considerable money for a range of Spanish charities.
Meanwhile, British expatriates are, justifiably, well known for their massive support of animal welfare charities. These perform a constantly fantastic service throughout Spain in protecting and housing ‘at risk’ pets and other vulnerable animals.
Certainly, in these times of great need for the Spanish, it is great to see a positive contribution from expatriates – who are all too often caricatured in the British press as people who retire to Spain and do little apart from sit beside their pools, drinking vast amounts of sangria. This is not an image I associate with the majority of expatriates with whom I come across. Most are very active, have great social lives and throw themselves into good causes to help their adopted country.
I see this every Saturday at a free English language conversation group I attend in Gandia – which has now been running, uninterrupted, for eight years! This is populated by up to fifty or sixty Spaniards (of all ages) who rely upon the good nature and generosity of a dozen Britons – who spend every Saturday morning providing English language listening and speaking practice. This is input into Spain of real value and is something that is greatly appreciated by our local Spaniards.
Of course, charities in Spain are not the only target for British help and generosity. Help for Heroes has received a good deal of support from Britons in Spain and recently my attention was drawn to the raising of over 2,000 Euros by some friends of mine for Prostrate Cancer UK. This is a subject close to the (I think I should say!) heart of many men and something that requires a good deal of research before it is finally conquered.
Recently, nine friends of mine raised the 2,000 Euros by having a competition to see who could grow the most impressive moustache or beard. This may appear an easy thing to do but, as many men know, requires the support of wives, who have to tolerate a newly bewhiskered partner – and someone who is being driven mad by the itching! This is no small thing and the sighs of relief of my friends, as they returned to their razors, was a tribute to what they had achieved over several long weeks. Well done indeed!
I have to say that, for anyone thinking of coming to live here, doing charity work in Spain is important. It is a very obvious way of contributing to your adopted country and is a great way of integrating with the Spanish and finding out what is really going on. Perhaps even more importantly, doing charity work in Spain helps greatly to dispel the image of ‘rich’ foreigners coming to Spain and being ‘takers’ within the country rather than net ‘givers’. It can also be a quick and effective way of developing a meaningful social life and one with a glorious and uniting common purpose.
So – if you are coming to live in Spain, once you have settled in properly, plug into your local expatriate network and see what you can do. By helping you will be a wonderful ambassador for our country and, if you are retired, find a focus for your energy that will be hugely appreciated (and great fun!)