Ana Ortega has run the association for five years. / J-L
For the last five years Ana Ortega has been at the helm of the Asociación Marbella Voluntaria and is also involved in setting up the Plataforma del Voluntariado, a venture to recruit local volunteers centrally and coordinate with 18 local charities, depending on their needs. Ana’s own association has around 100 users - mainly elderly people in need of company - whose needs are more than covered with the help of some 200 volunteers. Now, however, she is more concerned about the problems suffered by families who have fallen victim to the economic downturn.
Has the crisis aroused people’s generosity towards the poor?
We don’t have more volunteers but rather more people asking for help, people out of work.
Marbella is always associated with wealth and luxury. Is there more need in the town than we think?
Definitely. And not just now. We have been around for six years and it hasn’t been just for the sake of it. Marbella has seen its times of splendour and luxury for some, and then there were those of us who thanks to that worked hard and lived well, but there has always been another less fortunate group that is not so visible. Here there was a fictitious world and we thought that that was all there was.
Who does your association work with?
Much of our work involves keeping elderly people company; we can’t do much more than that. Providing company or helping with the shopping or with filling in forms. Some people are on extremely low pensions and we advise them about how they can get to the end of the month with a bit of help from Cáritas or the Red Cross.
Now you are pushing for a soup kitchen or something similar.
We believe, and have told the authorities, that as there is nowhere for homeless people to go to sleep, there ought at least to be a place where they can get something to eat. The matter has been discussed two or three times but it needs an extra push. There are people who do have a roof over their heads but haven’t got enough money to put food on the table. There should be a door open in Marbella where people can go in and get a hot meal. Just as they put up new lampposts or repair the roads, which is great, they should also lend a hand to people in need.
A lot of people don’t want to become a volunteer because they say it would take up too much time.
They’re wrong. Ninety per cent of our volunteers don’t spend more than two hours a week helping out.