Have you considered volunteering in Spain? Not only is it a highly rewarding and enriching experience, but it is a great way to meet new people, settle into your new life and can even help you to improve your Spanish.
There are many opportunities for volunteering, whether you speak Spanish or not. You will find organisations which cover most interests, including working with animals, children, the elderly, and even litter picking and beach clean-ups.
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Here are a few suggestions to get you started:
La Cruz Roja (The Red Cross)
Founded in Spain in 1893, the Red Cross is present practically everywhere. There is more to this organisation than just first-aid; members also visit patients recently released from hospital or who have difficulty moving about.
It relies on volunteers and welcomes English speaking people to assist with citizens from the UK and other countries where English is the mother tongue. Sometimes you might go to visit someone in hospital to ask if they have any concerns or just to have a chat – it can be quite lonely in hospital if you don’t have any relatives who can visit you.
Short first-aid courses are also available and are a good way to meet others and to learn a really useful skill.
If you speak Spanish, you will be welcomed as a translator working in hospitals and medical centres where there are tourists. This can either be for regular hours or just as and when someone is needed. You will get to meet people of different nationalities and will really make a difference while working together with medical practitioners and social services.
Unfortunately, animals are not always treated well and there are many organisations around Spain which rescue them and find them good homes. All are delighted to receive any help you can offer.
There is no equivalent to the RSPCA in Spain, so charities tend to be local and privately run, and you’ll find different charities for different animals – a dog charity, a horse charity and so on.
If you are interested in helping out at animal centres and charities in your area, a local vet would be a good person to ask for recommendations. Alternatively, you could talk to people running dog grooming businesses or animal-related groups on Facebook.
Many of these charities desperately need volunteers and some are managed by English speakers, so don’t hesitate to offer your services!
Many Spanish people opt to volunteer for associations and charities concerned with the environment. Thanks to the wonderful climate, people spend a lot of their time outdoors and are very aware of the damage done to nature by the carelessness of others, global warming and big corporations.
One ecological organisation is ‘Friends of The Earth Spain’ – Amigos de la Tierra – which concerns itself with all environmental issues and ecology. Local groups organise campaigns to clean up national parks, beaches and mountains.
Another place to look is at Ecologists in Action – Ecologistas en Acción – which has over 300 groups in the country involved in every type of environmental issue and also organises big clean-ups on beaches, under the sea (great for those who love diving!) and nature reserves.
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Banco de Alimentos (Food Banks)
Sadly, there are over 3 million people in Spain who are living in poverty. This was propelled further by the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic when businesses went bankrupt, people lost their jobs and could no longer make ends meet, despite the government subsidies. According to INE, the Spanish National Statistics Institute, 7% of the population now fall into this category. Andalusia is one of the regions most affected, with the unemployed and retired faring the worst.
Most towns have food banks which are run on different systems. In my town, for example, people are given vouchers which they can exchange for food and other necessities.
Before the pandemic, there were two big campaigns, in July and December, where volunteers were placed in supermarkets asking customers if they could contribute basic foodstuffs and personal hygiene items. Generally, people were very willing to do so.
Volunteers also deliver food to people who can’t get out and about – this was especially important during the various lockdowns in place because of Covid-19. We can’t collect food at supermarkets for the moment, again because of Covid, so people are donating money online to purchase food.
No doubt there will be some British people finding themselves in this unenviable situation, so you can help them too by volunteering. Your local Town Hall (ayuntamiento) will have information on how to do this.
There are many women’s organisations which aim to help those who are finding it hard to cope with life and family, who are lonely, who are in abusive relationships or who just need some support.
You’ll find them in most larger towns and cities and volunteers are always needed. My local association runs courses on many subjects, events and exercise classes for women. You can volunteer to help in numerous different ways, for example, to write a letter in English, to teach English, to help decorate a home, to help tidy up a garden, to give a make-up session, to do someone’s hair etc.
Spain has its own Samaritan service and desperately needs volunteers to man the phones. There are English speaking branches in most areas where you find British communities.
Age in Spain is an English-speaking organisation which supports the British community in several ways. They provide practical information about living in Spain, one-to-one support, and a helpline for British people wanting to apply for residency.
The European Youth Portal offers many ways for the young to help communities for anywhere between two months and one year. This is a great opportunity to improve language skills while offering your services towards the environment, health, inclusion, digital technologies, culture and sport. Although many activities are in countries other than in Spain, one can volunteer to work here as well and it’s also a great way to find new friends and to have new experiences.
Finally, there is a very useful website called Support in Spain which gives details and contacts for a variety of charitable organisations which need our support. It gives a very comprehensive list of all the charities available and is a useful tool for life in Spain as well as showing where you can volunteer.