Sunday, February 12, 2006

Animo: Charity-work in Spain

If you have made it this far with your researches on Spain, you may want to carry on a bit further, to find another blogsite, this time about helping the less fortunate, the physically, sensorially and mentally challenged. It’s kept by Barbara who worked for many years in Almeria in ‘Animal Assisted Therapy’, after working in the USA in various projects - particularly with children who needed special attention. She worked with dog training programs for the deaf, with ‘handi-dogs’ and she rode horses. Since a small child, she always rode horses – bareback at that!
Back in around 1988 here in Spain, she introduced hippotherapy to the country, which responded by attending her seminars in Mojácar, following her ideas at her centre ‘Animo’, which had around forty volunteers and as many ‘students’ (no charge). She was fêted by the charities here in Spain, particularly those in Almeria City, who promptly followed her ideas, copied them, and re-tabled them as their own (one charity taking 90,000 euros from the government for a proposal based on Barbara’s work).
She kept eight horses, four donkeys, wild boar, sheep and goodness knows what else. She travelled to Madrid, Barcelona, Albacete, France, Switzerland and Germany to give speeches and attend international conferences with, for example, the FRDI (International Riding for the Disabled Foundation). There wasn’t any official help for these activities, and someone stole the tins we left in the bars.
Many charities in Spain enjoy a sinecure, a position which provides jobs and security, and for the senior staffers and wise old-timers, a new car every couple of years, position, notoriety and wealth. Not much work, necessarily, but a steady income and few criticisms. Even when they swipe things. We know of:
A charity which places jobs for the disabled, and takes 20% from the employee – for the life of the job.
A national charity which sells off properties and pinches the money.
A national charity that forces another national charity to close down part of its operations.
A charity which works with wheelchair users on the second floor of an office-block. No lift.
A charity which takes children from the Sahara, only to return them as the accountant has walloped all the money.
A charity that doesn’t use trained personnel.
And so on.
Of course, there’s more to it than that. Collecting money in government grants is time-consuming, competitive and labour intensive. The nation is partial to its paperwork, and no where truer than in the search for funding.
There are agents who will do it for you – for 20% of the pot!
There are, of course, many wonderful people to be found in this field, selfless and extraordinary people working in fine organisations. Médicos sin Frontera, Sac Xiroi and Asprodalba (Vera) being just three very different but entirely magnificent examples.
However, a few bad apples…
Barbara doesn’t write about that stuff on her site, she prefers to concentrate on how animal assisted therapies can work, for whom, how to do it right, the dangers and the triumphs. Find her site at

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