Every day smiles and games arrive punctually on the Oncology ward at the Materno Infantil hospital in Malaga, but last weekend these anonymous benefactors, who are accustomed to spreading joy to others, received a taste of their own medicine at a very special event. Nearly 50 chefs from all over Spain came to thank the volunteers of the Child Oncology Volunteers Association (AVOI) for their daily dedication to ensuring that children and their families do not feel alone while they are in hospital.
The tribute took the form of a surprise party for more than 300 people at the provincial government headquarters, the Diputación, in Malaga, with fantastic food and live music from Javier Ojeda. It was organised by the Euro-Toques international chefs association to mark the 25 years that the AVOI members have been providing this invaluable service. Sergio Garrido, the chef who is the organisation's representative in Andalucía, began to plan the event six months ago.
The volunteers, who came from different places in the province such as Estepona, Marbella and Ronda, arrived in Malaga in coaches, but they didn't know where they were going or why there were there. "Some of them weren't expecting anything much," says Sergio.
It was a challenge to bring together hundreds of volunteers who have worked with AVOI since it began in 1993, but the association's president, Juan Carmona, was delighted to organise it. "He almost cried when I told him about the idea," says Sergio. Juan told the volunteers that it was just an outing to celebrate the years that the association had been in existence.
At the celebration, the 45 chefs who had come from Granada, Caleta de Vélez, Palmones (Cadiz), San Pedro Alcántara, San Sebastián and Almeria cooked for the guests, while Malaga musician Javier Ojeda and his band performed some of their greatest hits.
This culinary tribute was the first activity as part of the Euro-Toques Assembly 2018, which is attended by about 100 chefs from all over Spain to discuss new challenges in the world of gastronomy.