Veronika Tye's was certainly one of the biggest smiles at last week's opening of the Collective Calling charity shop in San Pedro Alcántara.
An ambassador for the Marbella-based charity for the last two years, Veronika is originally from the Czech Republic. She lived in Cambridge, England, for ten years, before moving to the Costa del Sol with her husband Martin and their three children five years ago. She already had a holiday home in southern Spain although the decision to settle permanently in Marbella was driven by the weather, a more outdoor lifestyle for the children, the friends she already had here and the renowned international schools in the area.
More information : The new Collective Calling shop is open in Avda Pablo Ruiz Picasso, Local 4, 29670, San Pedro Alcántara, from Monday to Friday 10am to 2pm and 4pm to 7pm. Saturday morning only. Visit www.collectivecalling.org or call 951742495.
A lawyer by profession, Veronika has spent the last ten years bringing up her three children. Two years ago, however, she decided she wanted to change her life and went on a mission to Tanzania with Collective Calling, to set up a Centre of Hope.
The project offers accommodation, food, medical care, trauma therapy and education to street-children, with the eventual goal of returning them to their families, as the majority of the youngsters have living relatives.
For Veronika, the experience has been life-changing. She told SUR in English:"I think we are very privileged here in Europe and I worry that my three children are growing up surrounded by luxury. I come from a country, which used to be part of the Soviet bloc, and my childhood was totally different. I don't take things for granted and do have that reality check. It is sometimes difficult to keep children grounded and this is one of the reasons I went to Africa, so that I could pass on my experience to my family.
"When I came back, we established a pen friend programme with the Centre of Hope and Aloha College, where my children go to school, so that the students from both countries can learn about each other's cultures and lives. It brings a lot of joy to both sides."
Veronika first discovered Collective Calling two and a half years ago at a charity event at KAH Marbella, where the founders were raising funds to build their centre in Tanzania.
"I felt that I could trust them, as I could see them on video in Africa and they were standing in front of me in Marbella. However, I definitely wanted to see more, before I gave them my full support, and therefore six months later I travelled to Tanzania to see the project for myself," she added.
As an ambassador for the charity, Veronika is heavily involved with organising fundraising events along the Costa del Sol.
The pandemic made it difficult to organise events, she said, and the need for a shop to generate regular income became more apparent. The store will also help people recycle clothes and offer quality goods at affordable prices to the local community, she explained.
The shop has only been open for a week and has already become popular with San Pedro residents.
"We strive to create a friendly and welcoming environment. We want to be at the centre of San Pedro life; a place where people can browse, shop and meet up with friends in our café area.
"There is a wide range of clothing, household goods, toys, accessories and books on sale. Except for electrical appliances, we accept most goods. If we can't sell these items in the shop, they can be distributed to people who need them through our drop-in centre. It's important to remind people to not leave things outside the shop or our drop-in centre and office in the evening or at night. Please bring them in when we are open," Veronika explained.
Collective Calling is also very active locally. "We distribute food parcels, via our drop-in centre, to families along the Costa del Sol. Our drop-in centre and out-reach programmes work with homeless people in the area. We also help people get back into work via our Inspiring Futures programme.
"During the Sierra Bermeja fire, once the emergency services allowed us into the area, we were on hand to bring food parcels to the families who had been evacuated. We hope, in the next couple of weeks, to be able to work with the local community, so they can get back on their feet as quickly as possible," she said.
Veronika's next fundraising event is the Beach Olympics taking place tomorrow, Saturday 9 October, at Paradise Beach in Puerto Banús.
Different teams, sponsored by local residents and companies, will compete from 11am to 2pm against each other in a gruelling sports event which promises to be both challenging and entertaining.