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IN THE FRAME

Melanie Wilkes Teacher, fundraiser, idea-woman and daredevil
11.04.14 - 15:24 -
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Reaching new heights
Melanie’s skydive raised almost 7,000 euros. :: sur
Melanie Wilkes Teacher, fundraiser, idea-woman and daredevil
Ten years after moving to Coín Melanie Wilkes has become a staple in the Costa community
When teacher Melanie Wilkes first came to live in Spain ten years ago, she initially thought she would give it a go for a few months and see how things went. Having arrived at her parents’ home in Coín on a Thursday, her Mum handed her an advertisement for a possible job. She went to interview the next day and was at work at a children’s nursery in Alhaurín el Grande on the following Monday morning and has lived in Spain ever since.
“It was all so quick but it was the kind of work I had been doing in the UK, looking after children with special educational needs. Ten years later and I am still working with children as a Reception Class teacher at The British College in Benalmádena and giving extra support to those who need a bit more help with learning in English,” says Melanie, who also worked as a nanny for a family in Marbella for five years. She adds “I moved away to Almeria for a year for another nannying job. I made good friends there and liked it a lot but Coín is my home. It is where I have the most friends and I love the convenience of being close to the coast but in a small village surrounded by countryside.”
Three years ago Melanie started a Facebook group to sell some clothes she no longer needed. Now, with nearly 7,000 members, the ‘Buy sell swap Coín’ is one of the Costa del Sol’s busiest Facebook pages, with members posting new items every few minutes.
“I knew a friend of mine had sold some of her goods through a similar group based in the UK and there was nothing like it for the Costa del Sol, so I set up the group. It just took off. The membership grew really quickly but I never imagined we would end up with nearly 7,000 members and that people would join from all over the coast, as well as the Coín area. The group gives people a chance to advertise the things they no longer need and there is a real sense of community within the group, with people sharing information on how to do practical things here in Spain, like how to register a car or get a passport.”
According to Melanie some of the oddest things for sale are those that are posted in humour. “We have had people trying to sell chocolate advent calendars with all the doors open and no chocolates, but everyone enjoys the joke. The most expensive item so far, apart from a few houses that have been advertised, was a really smart sports car that was for sale at more than 100,000 euros.”
Charitable exploits
Earlier this year Melanie decided to raise funds to help support her friends Paul and Sarah and their young family, as they faced dealing with terminal cancer.
“My original idea was to raise enough to send the family away for a long weekend. Paul has been told after four years of treatment that there is nothing more the doctors can do for his cancer and he was advised he has a matter of months to live. I wanted to give the couple and their two young boys a chance to make some memories together, so decided to face my fear of heights and do a sponsored parachute jump.”
In addition to getting over her fear of heights, Melanie managed to raise far more than she had expected. She said “So far I have collected 6,673.76 euros from the parachute jump, with a few sponsors yet to pay. I might even hit 7,000 euros!”
The money not only helped Paul and Sarah have a memorable holiday with their sons at a theme park hotel near Madrid but some funds have also been set aside to cheer up the boys when they face what will probably be their first Christmas without their Dad. The couple also insisted on giving some money to the family of a child suffering from cancer in Coín.
“Paul and Sarah’s story is one that a lot of people can relate to and I think that’s why people were so willing to help. Some of the money raised went directly to the Cancer Research UK charity through online donations but most was collected from my friends and supporters from Facebook. One lady from La Cala called Sally helped by raising money through her friends, including players at her son’s football club. An anonymous donor helped boost Sally’s contribution to 3,000 euros. The family had a wicked time in Madrid despite the sadness of it all. It made everything worthwhile.”
Although claiming to have a fear of heights, she found that the thrill of the sponsored jump left her wanting more. “The experience is breath taking. After the initial freefall, when the parachute is up, it is just so peaceful. You can’t hear a sound. I felt like there was no-one else in the world, even though I was strapped to an experienced sky diver.”
Having made her first jump to raise the money for Paul and Sarah, Melanie quickly booked up for more sky diving sessions.
“I have jumped a few times now and have signed up for a sky diving course. I can already steer around clouds! It is fantastic.”
Her recent brush with extreme sports has given Melanie a taste for adrenaline. She explains: “I searched for extreme sports in this area and found microlight flying lessons near Antequera, so I’ve booked for those too. I’ve become a bit of an adventurer!
THE SUR IN ENGLISH CONNECTION
SUR in English at times has helped Melanie make big changes in her life. “I get the paper every single week and over the years at different times I have found jobs and properties through some of the advertisements. In fact, the job that I got when I first came to Spain was spotted in SUR in English by my mum before I even arrived. These days, when I’ve finished reading the paper, it gets used to help toilet train my five month old rescue puppy!”

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