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Serving the city we live in

Por: | 29 de marzo de 2012

Serve the city El Pais

A brand new organisation is hoping to encourage Madrileños and expats alike to give a little of their time all in aid of an excellent cause. 

Serve the City, a movement of volunteers founded in Brussels in 2005, aims to show kindness in practical ways, making volunteering a little bit more personal. It is now active in over 70 cities worldwide, with Madrid being the latest addition to their numerous projects. 

Many people would volunteer if they just had more information about how to go about it and what projects in their city were in need of help. Serve the City works with existing NGOs and non profit organisations, supporting the often excellent work already being done in Madrid by putting potential volunteers in touch with projects in need of help. Simply log onto their website and you are met with a list of different NGOs in Madrid that are looking for volunteers. You can find something that you like the sound of and sign up then and there. 

For expats in Spain interested in volunteering, the whole business of finding projects can be daunting, especially if your Spanish is not yet up to scratch. Serve the City Madrid, which was set up by British couple Karen and Warren Batt, has a website in both Spanish and English, making it much easier for Madrid’s residents, both old and new, native and foreign, to get involved. 

“The whole purpose of Serve the City is to get people involved in volunteering, regardless of nationality, background or age”, says Janelle Norman, communications officer for Serve the City Madrid. 

“One of the things you receive when you give your time and effort is a greater understanding of your community, its needs and how you can make a difference. It’s a great way for people to get to know each other and meet people that they might never otherwise have met”. 

Spain lags behind in the European volunteering stakes, with 23% currently volunteering, compared to the European average of 30%. (The Netherlands leads the pack, with over 50% of the population doing some kind of volunteer work). 

In the climate of recession and unemployment currently ravaging Spain, volunteering is needed more than ever, and can be extremely beneficial to the volunteers themselves as well as the recipients of their aid. 

Work experience to add to your CV and a renewed sense of purpose can help those who are unemployed or seeking work. Take a look at the demographics of those who are currently volunteering in Spain, and it becomes clear that unemployed people figure extremely low among them. Those who are most likely to volunteer are female students and workers under the age of 35. They are most likely to volunteer within the area of social services. 

This Saturday, 31st March, is Serve the City Madrid’s first big volunteering day and they are encouraging people to get out into their communities and give something back. They have set up various volunteering events of their own to publicise their work and get as many Madrileños as possible involved. The projects are varied, so there should be something to suit all tastes. From taking part in a variety show for the elderly in a local nursing home to helping restore a community garden in Malasaña or using your film-making skills to document the projects taking place across the city on Saturday, there are ample opportunities to get involved. 

Look out on the metro this week for Serve the City’s unique marketing strategy, “reverse busking”. Rather than asking for money, they will be giving it out in the form of 10 cents attached to the back of flyers publicising the volunteering day. They hope their new form of busking will get people talking about their projects and eager to find out more about how to get involved. 

“There are so many people in need who seem to be separated from the many many people who are in a position to help”, says Janelle Norman, of Serve the City. “We want to see people crossing that line and not only knowing another person by their needs, but knowing them by their name”.

Madrid is so often hailed as a city that feels more like a small town thanks to the warmth of its inhabitants and its community spirit. Volunteering gets you out into that local community, giving something back and meeting a wide range of people; the people who make Madrid the wonderful city it is. 

For more information [email protected] 

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Thanks for sharing this interesting information. It's a good iniciative.
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Carmen Martín

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Chris Finnigan is a freelance journalist based in Barcelona. He writes for Barcelona Metropolitan and is a book reviewer and reader for The Barcelona Review. He is a graduate of the London School of Economics. You can find him on twitter @chrisjfinnigan

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