Majorca

Pet Pioneer

Dogs, Vicki McLeod. Photographer. Mallorca,

I’m in a field with about twenty dogs, and my friend who is a dog walker and thankfully in charge of them. It’s a bit crazy, there are big dogs and little dogs and in between dogs. There’s pedigrees and mixtures, and licky dogs and barky dogs. They are very excited because I’m new to them, and they all want to say hello. I’m here because I want to take some photos of a pioneer, Christina Kastin. The pack of dogs all love her, when she sits down on the bench to pose for a photo they all obediently gaze at her, they love her and she clearly loves them back.

You may not of heard of Christina yet, but she’s about to do something quite special for dogs and their owners in Europe. Christina has been quietly championing the rights of dogs on the island since 2007 when she first decided to convince every single council in Majorca to make some green spaces accessible to dogs. From this nugget of a big idea has come a much, much bigger idea: this November she intends to fly dogs and their owners from Sweden, Germany, France and the UK to visit Majorca on dog friendly holidays, and not only that, she intends to have as many dogs as possible travelling in the cabins of the aircrafts with their owners. When she pulls it off it will make history, spark a debate about pet travel, and revolutionise the tourism industry. But let her tell you in her own words….

Christina Kastin, Photorgrapher, Mallorca. Vicki McLeod, Majorca

“My name is Christina Kastin and I’m the founder of Harmony Travels. I was born and raised in Gothenburg in Sweden. I have lived in Spain since 1989 and for the last 15 years I have lived in Majorca.  I was the owner and partner of several businesses. but in 2006 I came to a turning point in my life so I took six months off to find out what I really wanted to do and that’s how my mission and my business Harmony Travels came about.

“Just like many dog owners I love being by and in the sea and in natural environments, and walking in the woods. However in Majorca this is a problem as we only have a few green areas in the local community which we can “legally” access. So my “mission” started in 2007 to increase access for dogs to green areas in Majorca. Basically you were not allowed to take your dog anywhere and where you were allowed they would always have to be on the lead. They authorities had forbidden dogs to be in any green zones, but they did not want them on the street either, so where should they be? The laws are contradictory because on one hand they say we must take care of our animals, and not make them anti social, but on the other hand they are not allowed to be anywhere, so how will they then learn how to be sociable with other dogs and people? Dogs were not allowed on the beaches either, even though they love the sand and water and suffer during the intense summer heat as we do.

Vicki McLeod, Photographer, Mallorca, Majorca“I decided that I was not going to let “them” ignore us, dog owners, any more:  something needed to be done and I was going to do something about it. I decided I was going to see the local politicians. As I started writing down my ideas in preparation for meeting my local mayor of the time, Sr. Carlos Delgado, I realised that my idea would be perfect to promote the winter tourism season here. As I kept on writing my ideas were flowing and suddenly I had a whole project on my hands. I wanted to create a place where people could come and relax in and bring their dogs if they wished. I decided I wanted to promote an awareness so that tourists and their dogs could come to this island and enjoy it all and connect with us residents and our dogs in a perfect harmony. The end  result would be a better understanding between people and animals and respect for the land. I first presented my ideas on June 5th 2007, which I later found out was “Environmental Day”, a good omen I hoped!

“I wanted to make a difference to the island I live on: for me, for the residents and our pets, for the tourists that come here, and above all protect the land from being exploited.”

And so began several years of campaigning and meeting with local councils, promoting the idea and changing minds for the good of dogs and their owners here in Majorca. All of it unpaid work which Christina undertook with great enthusiasm.

“It hasn’t been easy but my motto is, if you want something, go for it and let nothing (or no one) stop you!  So here we are, nine years later: many, and more are due, municipalities have made great changes; dogs can now access several beach areas during the whole winter, we have five all year round areas for them to go and swim in and in Palma we have seven buses admitting dogs. There are also more dog parks and more positive changes on the way. So dear dog owners the future is looking bright!” You can find details of all of the accessible areas by visiting her website http://www.guide4dogs.com and clicking on VILLAGES.

Vicki McLeod, photographer, Mallorca, Majorca

But now dear reader, and I hope keen dog lover, Christina’s new big idea needs your backing and support. She is planning four separate trips from Germany, France, Sweden and the UK in late October and November all arriving in Majorca and staying in a pet friendly hotel and taking part in excursions and activities which will include dogs and people. She is looking for sponsors and for people who would like to take part in her first ever weeklong event. After so many years of working for the dog owners she’s hoping that now she will be able to find support from them.

” I now need their help. With all the work done so far I feel the time has come to promote our amazingly beautiful island as a dog friendly destination, during our winter season, which is not very wintery at all but more like a great, and mostly, sunny spring”.

Personally I can see many ways a business could get involved with this project as well as individuals with their pets as I can imagine there will be an enormous amount of press coverage from international media. Christina’s vision, passion and determination have so far resulted in many changes on the island, and this next step is a big one but certainly one that she can do. She’s already met with airlines, and secured a pet friendly hotel in the Arta area and developed a lovely weeklong itinerary for the holiday.

 

So let’s see if YOU are the one who can help me by answering the below questions:

  • Do you live in Sweden, France, Germany or England?
  • Is your dog calm and good with other dogs?
  • Do you want to travel, during November, to Majorca (in the cabin) with your dog (up to 30kg)?
  • Do you want to be make history?
  • Do you want to help to make changes for yourself and other pet owners?

If you answered “Yes” to the questions above you  might end up being one of the very first pet owners to fly with its pet in a chartered plane only for dog owners and their pets, the first one in the world! There are obviously a limited numbers of dogs and people on the plane so it will be a first come first served system, if you are interested and want to find out more information about this trip please send her an e-mail to: christina@guide4dogs.com

You can visit http://www.guide4dogs.com for more information.

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Grapevine #65

The Sunbird team

30 Years in Puerto Portals

Eric Martin, owner of Sunbird was the first to open an office in Puerto Portals in 1986. Having been in the UK yacht sales business for 14 years, the time felt right to expand in to different waters. Sailing in the Mediterranean felt like an exciting progression. Sunshine was, of course, a huge draw to the Mediterranean and having heard about a new and prestigious marina being completed in Mallorca, 7km west of Palma town the expansion felt right. “When we saw the site we knew it was the perfect opportunity to open Sunbird S.A.” Puerto Portals combined an incredible location with clear ambitions to become a luxury destination. Eric had met Simon Crutchley, a fluent Spanish speaker whose local knowledge, great contacts and yachting experience made him the ideal candidate to manage the new operation. The potential was huge and it felt right to get in from the start. And so Sunbird Mallorca opened its doors in August 1986 – one week after the launch of the iconic Wellies, as they’d been storing their tables and chairs for them!

There is no doubt Puerto Portals is firmly established as one of the best and most beautiful marinas in the Mediterranean, with a fantastic future ahead. Thirty years after Sunbird opened its doors, Portals’ original marina resident could not be prouder to have been here since day one. www.sunbirdyachts.eu.

Mallorca Solutions Opening Party August 5 2016 Photo Credit Vicki McLeod Phoenix Media -0227

Mallorca Solutions Party

I popped in to wish Becky Bellafont Evans and her team good luck at their new office which is between the Post Office (Correos) and the British Surgery at C/Germans Pinzons 5, Local 2 in Palma Nova. Many, many familiar faces were there, along with new ones as Becky and her gang specialise in looking after people who move to the island: organising their paperwork and helping them get settled in to their new lives. A personal highlight was getting to try some of Stephanie Prather’s delicious vegan canapés (I had to be dragged away from them before I truly embarrassed myself by eating them all).

Sophie Butterfield and Comet Air Photo Credit Vicki McLeod Phoenix Media -7715

Congratulations Sophies!

My little girl, Gidg, is now fully horse obsessed. For the last three weeks she has been accompanying her mentor and teacher Sophie Cordoba Mitchell (owner of Club Caballisto Son Malero in Calvia where she rides), and stable mates Sophie Butterfield and Angelina Schlak on very, very late night expeditions. Sophie B has been competing on her horse Comet Air in three high level events culminating last week in a three night marathon. Because of the heat the competition is run at night, with most of the classes being from 8pm to 2am. (A sensible person might suggest they do the competition in winter, but hey). Gidg’s role is gopher, and video maker. Sophie managed to finish fourth (out of forty experienced riders) in the “Infanta” which is a very prestigious event, so well done Sophie and her team, Gidg included!

The Wednesday Group

In September Kay Halley from the Universal Bookshop in Portals will launch a new community group which she is going to call The Wednesday Group. Its aim is to produce knitted, sewn and crocheted items for sale by the various community groups on the island (particularly Age Concern and the Cancer Support Group). The group is being launched also as a remembrance for a lady which Kay was very close to, Cynthia, who was a demon knitter and quilter in her time and produced many blankets, hats, scarves etc for various groups. The group will be open for anyone who can knit, sew, crochet, or wants to learn. The idea is that they will produce the item and they can decide which charity benefits from it. It will also be a brilliant way to make new friends and enrich your social circle.The group will launch on 7th September.  Assocuacio Veinats 3, Carrer de la Lluna in Bendinat. You can get more information by calling 971 676 116

Snowgun

Pet Project: Dog of the week

Snowgun is a beautiful 18 month old German Shepherd mix, possibly mixed with either a white German Shepherd or a Husky. She is a very good, fit, healthy young girl. She is leishmaniosis negative and has no known health problems. Snowgun is very obedient, and comes when her name is called . She walks beautifully on the lead . As like most GSD she is very intelligent. She is looking ideally for a sporty family to adopt her as she is lots of fun with loads of energy,  playful but does know when to stop. Snowgun was found on the street, living as a stray before Dogs For U took her in. She is very good with other dogs and lives with 8 other dogs in the main pack at DFU. She is a perfect fun loving dog. As with all dogs from DFU. She comes spayed, fully vaccinated, wormed, chipped, flea protected, has a passport. And comes with a DFU contract.  She is a perfect girl and will enhance anyone’s life. What more could you ask for. Call Cornelia on 637 242 228.

Emma and Daniel in the wave pool

Emma-Jane Woodham

My husband and I both had the pleasure of photographing this beauty recently at BH Mallorca, Mood Beach and other locations around the island. She’s made herself infamous by doing something rather naughty on the Love Island TV show, but in reality she is a darling. Very sweet, very polite, fun and gorgeous to boot.

The Orchestra 6 August 2016 Port Adriano Photo Credit Vicki McLeod Phoenix Media -0216

NOT ELO

I wasn’t going to refer to the absence of Jeff Lynne at the press conference for The Orchestra last week, but Richie Prior (Radio One Mallorca and columnist for the MDB) didn’t get hung up on such niceties. I watched in admiration as he politely referred to the elephant in the room in a way which meant the musicians couldn’t skip around the question “Do you think you will ever perform again with Jeff?”. The answer was quite revealing. “Jeff’s more of a studio guy. We’re more band guys. He collaborates with one guy and we like to tour”.  I only saw the first three songs of the gig itself, but I was told by friends of mine that it was really good. Well done to the team at Port Adriano for putting on some top quality acts this summer.

Simply Red

Speaking of top quality acts…. The gig of the year is almost upon us. One more week to go. Some tickets are still available I understand, mostly standing. See you there?

Stand up for James.

James, ready to rock

There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t find myself amazed and grateful for the life I am living. One of the great things I get to do is to meet interesting people doing unique things, and so this week I met 18 year old James Fitzsimmons. James has been living in Mallorca since he was a toddler. He lives in Andratx with his mum Sharon. One day, when James was eleven his friend rang him up and asked him if he wanted to go kayaking, James said yes, and literally the rest is history. He found a sport which suited him and he it, and very soon he was out on the water as often as he possibly could be. He started to compete and rose through the ranks of his peers to start winning Open Water Kayak races as a junior. And now as an adult, in the Under 23 category he is already winning competitions against older and more experienced “paddlers”.

James now has the opportunity to go to Tahiti and compete in the World Championships (or “World Champs” as he endearingly calls it). His training schedule is relentless and his dedication is impressive, but when you hear that he is doing it with very little organised or formal coaching or support then you begin to be really, really impressed with him. Since turning eighteen and becoming legally an adult, he doesn’t get the same sort of help as he would have done when he was seventeen and younger. Which is an incredible shame. So James’s mum Sharon is fighting to raise the funds to get her son to the South Pacific to compete. If you want to show your support you can join in at Sa Vinya in Es Capdella, Calvia on Sunday September 20th from 16.00 to 20.00 where there will be a fun fundraising event for James (they are planning to put his kayaks in the swimming pool and invite people to try to get into them, it’s much harder than it looks, so there could be a few splashes!). Sponsors for logos on his boat are also being sought to help him raise the 4000€ he needs to get to the competition. When you look around and see so many disillusioned young people it’s wonderful to see one so driven and quietly determined to succeed. Please support or sponsor James and wish him luck in his big World Champ. You can do this by contacting Sharon Grange (jamessurfski@gmail.com 639385874) or Izzy Newman (639693922) or by visiting the Facebook Page http://www.facebook.com/Surfski18

It’s been ‘The “J” word’.

Vicki McLeod, Gold medal award winning blogger!

Yes, people do employ this face.

When I was at school I didn’t consider myself to be one of the smart kids. Neither did my teachers.  I went to two different primary schools (was expelled from the first one for having the wrong dinner money, it’s a long story) and then went to the local single sex grammar school. I didn’t get in on the strength of my academic promise, or on any sort of recommendations from my teachers about the glittering future they could see for me. No, I got in because my mum wrote an essay in the application form which seemed to sway the admissions secretary. To this day I don’t know what it said.

I didn’t like school, and school didn’t like me either. I asked the wrong questions, or didn’t pay attention or didn’t show up. By the time I was fifteen my hormones had completely taken over and I was a typical teenage girl, all random hair and spots and lumps sprouting out of strange places. I left school with a good enough haul of O levels, but a very poor result in my A levels. By this time I already knew that what I wanted to do wouldn’t have anything at all to do with universities because: a) we couldn’t afford it and b) there wasn’t a cat`s chance in hell of getting in anywhere worth going. So I went into the world and started from the bottom. I worked my way up through a variety of theatre jobs until I hit the West End and international theatre tours as a Company Manager. Then I started again and did the same with disability and community work. Then I started again and did the same with holistic therapies and health. Then I moved to Mallorca, to add another dimension of difficulty, and did it all over again. I like change, and I like challenges.

Back at the beginning my best friend at school, Catherine, was destined to be a writer. From day one she was the clever one of our partnership, and I was the gobby one. Things came extraordinarily easily to Catherine, whilst I had to work for it. And in order to work for it I had to be convinced that it was going to be worth the effort. So often enough I didn’t bother. Becoming a writer didn’t look as if it would ever be within my reach, I decided that only the most intelligent people could possibly do that.

Throughout my various careers I had the opportunity to write reports for presentation and I began to realise that perhaps I might be able to string a sentence together. Other people would have trouble writing words down in an understandable reading order, whilst I found it simple. Perhaps, after all, school had done something somewhere along the way. But I also think that another thing that changed was my belief in myself. As I worked my way through jobs to more jobs, forever moving upwards, my confidence grew and with that my voice and my opinions strengthened. I took a night school course in Journalism at the London School of Economics and as I developed so did the opportunities, and the technology to get my ideas and thoughts out into the world, firstly via blogs. When I started blogging back in 2004 I didn’t really think that I would now write professionally, but I do. It is now the thing which I earn the majority of my living from: copywriting for businesses, doing their brochures, emails, websites, and teaching them how to express themselves in the written form in social media.

When I heard that I had won the Expat Blog Gold Award for my blog www.familymattersmallorca.com and for my article “The Mallorca Expat Commandments” I felt an incredible sense of achievement. It’s a wonderful end to a brilliant 2013 for me: it’s been a (the “J” word) journey…. in the best X Factor fashion.  My article, about the Dos and Don’ts for anyone moving to the island, was the most commented on article in the entire competition and beat the other 170 entries from around the world to the top spot. Thank you to everyone who supported me and commented on the article. And thanks to Mrs McClaire who was the careers advisor at school back in 1987: she told me not to bother trying to work in the theatre as I’d never do it. Well I did it and many more things as well. And that’s my New Year’s Resolution for 2014: Don’t let anyone ever tell you can’t.

The 12 Mallorca Expat Commandments, or “What to think about before making The Great Move”.

mallorca_cnt_24nov09_iStock_

1) Be sure.

You may have visited Mallorca on a family holiday or a weekend bender with your friends. You may have been in Magaluf or Pollensa when the sun was beating down on you and the sand on the beach was too hot to walk on with bare feet. You may have thought you had found paradise but you may not realise that you could be wrong: until you have experienced Mallorca in its dampest of days then you have no idea what you are getting yourself into.

The island of Mallorca is surrounded by water, indeed it is engulfed in water: this gives us overwhelming humidity in the summer and extreme dampness in the winter. However you will not be able to drink the tap water because it tastes like salty chlorine (it IS salty chlorine: recycled and treated seawater). You will feel wet and cold to your bones in the winter, but not the dry, cosy cold that you can bear because there is central heating and carpets when you get into your house. No, this is the damp, stone, draughty cold that only Mallorca can really make you appreciate. You will not believe it until you have lived in it so do a recce in the winter (I recommend January for full effect). You can’t understand this now, but the two most essential and loved items in your house will become your electric fan and your electric blanket. My daughter would not exist without my electric blanket because until my husband and I were given one for Christmas during our first winter in Mallorca neither of us had been warm enough to get into bed with less than three layers of clothing, socks, hats and gloves on.

On the upside the surprising weather conditions in Mallorca always give British expats something to talk about. The Mallorcans and the British share a love of commenting on the weather, so you will have an opening gambit for a conversation. Practise saying: “Qué Frío” or “Qué Calor” depending on the six months of the year that you are in.

2) Be prepared.

These days it is very easy to get to know other British people who are residents in Mallorca. A great proportion of them are on Facebook and it’s a key method of communication on the island. You can get to know a lot of people and find good information in preparation for “The Great Move”. If you are moving to a specific part of the island then seek out local advice and tips from the people already living there. Google, and Facebook, and these days even Twitter, are your friends. Ask for recommendations for “Gestors” (pronounced “hestors” for the Brits). Get yourself a good one; you will need one of these people to help you get your paperwork done which is a long winded and frustrating experience. Have very low expectations about how many pieces of paper you can accrue in one day, and don’t underestimate how many different bits you will eventually have). Ask about schools, local services, mobile phone companies, in fact whatever you want to know just ask. The good expat people of Mallorca: via blogs and social media, love to help. These people will become your life support system, you will rely on them for your business, your social life, your day to day survival and they will become your beautiful and complex extended family, and this takes me on neatly to 3).

3) Don’t be fooled.

Birds of a feather flock together. We all feel more comfortable with people that come from an area we are familiar with: we share common speech patterns, terminology, possibly even mannerisms and senses of humour. We’re one of a kind but that can make us vulnerable to unscrupulous people. As much as it is important to make new friends and develop a social circle make sure that you don’t buy into any Ponzi schemes/ give away your house/ sell your children/ enter a cult, just because you’ve met a conman who comes from the same area as you. Don’t laugh; it’s happened, several times. For example: there is currently a British man staying at Her Majesty’s Pleasure in the UK who stole millions of pounds from unwitting British pensioners and expats in Mallorca.

But you will make lifelong friends. Expats are cut from the same cloth. There is a touch of the pioneer in every one of us. Every person who has moved from one country to another has that shared experience: you just got free life membership.

4) Don’t fool yourself.

Mallorca is tiny. If you act like a prat, rip someone off, turn out to be unreliable or bad at your job then it won’t take long for the island telegraph to get beating. You arrive on the island with your reputation intact: your actions and how you present yourself will determine whether it remains that way. Behave nicely and with integrity at all times. It gets you a long way.

5) Step into the time machine.

Living in Mallorca is like living in Britain in the Seventies, without the flares (although give it time and fashions come round again apparently). You can still pay a deposit on drink bottles and get the money back when you return them; depending on where you live on the island you will receive your cooking gas in bottles which are delivered to your door, and shops even close for half days. Sundays are sacred and nothing happens on them except family and leisure activities, it’s fabulous. There’s also a brilliant community spirit, outdoor events and fiestas and the Mallorcan version of Morris Dancers which are “Dimonis” (locals dressed up as devils who play with fire and fireworks, the proverbial Health and Safety nightmare). You must commit yourself wholeheartedly to the new culture that you are moving into: get Spanish telly, listen to Spanish radio, read Spanish newspapers. Take every opportunity you can to integrate. Get over any shyness you may have about making mistakes with the language. Start talking as soon as possible, and don’t stop. Better still, fall in love with a local who speaks no English at all, pillow talk is the best teacher.

6) Forget who you used to be, no one else cares.

Whoever you were in the UK, you aren’t that person anymore. When you step off the boat you are starting from scratch. Whatever “Grande Queso” position or status you had in the old country means absolutely nada in Mallorca. So, best get over it: right NOW. In the same breath, don’t reimagine yourself as a plumber or a brain surgeon when you haven’t done the training. People will figure it out, see 4).

7) Don’t live in a property with more bedrooms than you need.

Unless you like being visited by people you barely know who fancy a free holiday. Just saying 🙂 Also: reverse cycle air conditioning is a con; it won’t heat up your cold house, see 1).

8) Work for yourself.

It’s a scary moment when you step off the contracted ledge of employment into the gaping chasm of self-employment, but working for yourself can mean you have work all year round. Try to get some skills under your belt before you make your move, and take advantage of any night school classes or cheap education in the UK. Mallorca is a seasonal island which depends on tourism for the majority of its income and employment. The tourists only tend to come from May to October, but unfortunately landlords like to have rent paid all year round, so you will have to figure out what you are going to do for money during the other six months of the year. You will work harder 52 weeks round for less money than you earned back from where you came from, but you will get to live in a place where everyone else saves their money for 50 weeks of the year in order to visit for a fortnight.

9) Learn one of the languages.

Yes. That’s in the plural. You need to get your head around Castellan Spanish or Catalan (if your kids go to state school then they will be taught in Catalan first and Castellan Spanish second, and then English third, but that’s a whole other blog post). In some areas of Mallorca it may be better to speak German and English for employment. If you are living in the middle you may even find yourself having to get your head around Mallorquin. Do your homework and work it out. See 2).

10) Don’t buy a bar.

Unless you want to become a penniless alcoholic. Ask yourself, why would someone be selling a business which was making a profit? Don’t buy a fantasy. Don’t assume you have the knowledge to run a bar on the island even if you were born in a pub back in the UK. You won’t get familiar locals coming in every night, the taxes are insane and the police are always looking to lay a fine on you. They say to make a small fortune in Mallorca you have to arrive with a large one.

Just don’t do it, and don’t make me say I told you so.

11) Don’t burn your bridges.

Always have an exit plan. Even if you don’t ever plan on using it.

12) Prepare to fall in love.

Mallorca is a bit like a hot Wales: same amount of sheep, lots of incredible mountains, and a passionate race of bilingual people. Even after living on the island for years you will still go “WOW” every time you see a sunset / beach / mountain / village view. You will enjoy telling visitors and newbies about your favourite bar/restaurant/walk/fiesta/shop. You will love writing a “Guide to Expats” blog post for a competition. You will wait for your plane at Gatwick and get to proudly correct a fellow traveller: no, you aren’t going on holiday, you’re going home.

This article was originally written for the Expat Blog competition and was posted here:http://www.expatsblog.com/contests/883/the-12-mallorca-expat-commandments

It was by far the most commented on and voted for entry in the competition, and that is a great source of pride for me, thank you to the amazing expat and online communities that I am privileged to be part of.

Family Matters lead Spain to win the Top Country Award and took home first place, the Gold Medal.

The Milk of Human Kindness

Handmade blankets

Handmade baby blankets destined for a Mediterranea humanitarian aid centre in Mallorca.

Take one small business owner and lifelong knitter, Kay, a bunch of children including Giselle and Sophia, and Cynthia, another lifelong knitter and what have you got?

A lot of hand knitted blankets, that’s what.

Ever since Kay Halley took over the Universal Bookshop in Portals Nous she has been transforming her little locale into a community centre where people don’t just come to buy books. “I’ve been teaching the children to sew, knit and crochet. Some of them have got quite enterprising and even sell the things they make to their school friends. I know that there are a lot of handmade phone covers out there!” Kay set out to teach the basic skills required making knitted squares and they have mounted up to make several very cosy and good looking blankets.

But what could be done with these blankets? It’s still tough to accept it but in Majorca there are many people facing crippling poverty and hunger, in fact a great deal of residents living on “paradise island” don’t have a clue that there is any such problem here. Well, there is. And the situation is continually developing.  Families cannot afford to feed their children properly. Something as simple as milk has become a luxury item for some in Majorca and so a large number of children are not getting the amount of milk recommended by the World Health Organisation, which is half a litre a day, 15 litres a month. And why is milk significant (especially when many of us, me included, are constantly worrying about low fat, low carb diets)? Because it is a perfect food for growing children: it is a good source of protein, calcium, and vitamins, helping with the growth of body tissues, teeth and bones. Mediterranea is a voluntary, privately funded humanitarian aid organisation which Dr Michael Stoma and his wife Victoria founded back in 1999. It is well known for its work in Africa, and lesser known for its vital and day to day support of children who are living right now and right here in Majorca.

A stocked store cupboard, for now.

A stocked store cupboard, for now.

Back in 2009 Mediterranea realised that there was a developing economic problem on the island and so earlier this year they launched their “ESTO ES LA LECHE” project (it’s a Spanish term which translated means “It’s the bees’ knees”). Up to then they had distributed about 91,000 litres of milk to families with children. But recently the demand has rapidly increased: now Mediterranea is supplying milk to more than a thousand children who are in need across 19 municipalities in Majorca. Following WHO guidelines that would be 15,000 litres a month: that is a lot of milk. The commitment to supply milk is draining resources from other projects that Mediterranea supports. However, what is quite perfect about milk here in Majorca is that we buy it in cartons which don’t need chilling, or any special handling, and we (by that I mean you and I) can all buy extra cartons of milk and donate them easily. It is literally a few extra pennies per litre. Mediterranea now has its own drop off centre, called El Nucleo, which is just outside of Portals Nous, on the way to Bendinat. It is completely possible to drop off your milk donations any weekday. Dr Stoma and his volunteers would like us to all get into the habit of doing that. Of course if you live in another area of the island then you can  get in touch with Gwyneth, one of the volunteers at Mediterranea and she will  guide you on how to get the milk to those in need.

Gwyneth and Kay preparing to deliver!

Gwyneth and Kay preparing to deliver!

I learn all of this as Kay, Gwyneth and I are on the road to one of these municipalities to deliver the blankets. It strikes me that the solutions that both women are giving to what have become known as “Fourth World Problems” are simple and achievable. I am not loaded but I could buy an extra half a dozen cartons of milk every month and donate them. Or I could make a regular standing order to the organisation and let them get on with the shopping. Gwyneth tells me that there are about 400 members who donate monthly, but to make all of the projects secure Mediterranea really needs something like 5000 members. It’s only 20€ a month.

We arrive at the depot where we will deliver the blankets and take a look inside the food cupboard. It’s hard to fathom that milk, rice and lentils are the edge between not eating that day and having a full tummy; that some people in Majorca are so poor that they can’t afford to eat. We get to meet some of the families who receive aid from Mediterranea. I’m told that the people using the depot are mixture of cultures from all over the place: Africa, South America as well as Spain and Eastern Europe. A common thread that seems to run through them is that many worked in the building industry before it collapsed back in 2008. The depot is a humble, warm, friendly place, but I’m glad I don’t have to visit as a client.

On the journey home we were all in a reflective mood. What do you get personally from helping with a project like this? Gwyneth summed it up: “it’s the satisfaction that I am doing something small but significant to improve the life of someone who could behomeless, unemployed or just unlucky. Mediterranea helps to feed children and their families so that they don’t need to turn to crime or prostitution or eating from rubbish bins. I love to help, I’m only supposed to be doing this one morning a week but I think about it all the time, I’m passionate about it”.

And for Kay and her brood of knitters at the Universal Bookshop it’s the same, they are doing something small but perfectly formed which reverberates out and touches many more people. “I’m been imagining the children all wrapped up, cosy warm in their new blankets,” said Kay with a huge, happy smile on her face, “and the children who come into my bookshop are benefitting too. They need to be aware of children who aren’t as fortunate as themselves. We all have a responsibility to each other”.

You can find out more at http://mediterraneaong.com. To read more stories about people in Majorca visit www.mallorcastories.com

©Vicki McLeod 2013

It takes a village

(L) Nick, Dr Stoma, Sebastian and Brad

(L) Nick, Dr Stoma, Sebastian and Brad

Remember the summer of 2013? It seems such a long time ago now doesn’t it? Remember those two crazy boys who sailed around the island in their little dinghy to raise money for Mediterranea and Associacion Ondine? Nick and Sebastian (only 15 and 16 years old) hopped into their sailing boat called Rocky and circumnavigated the island in eleven days. They will never forget the summer of 2013 as they raised awareness for the charities and went through a rite of passage themselves. They made their parents, families and friends very proud, and they enlisted the help of 563 people who sponsored them, supported them, and encouraged them.

What’s that saying about it taking a village to raise a child? It takes more than one person to teach a child the ways of the world. It’s the idea that this influence, the impact that individuals and groups outside of the family have on young people, for better or for worse, is a crucial part of growing up. Some people say that it only takes a family to raise a child, not a village. But there does come a point in your life when however much you love your family you need to learn from other people as well. This is one of the wonderful things about bringing a child up in Mallorca: the community around you as a parent, again for better and for worse (I can do without some people’s opinions, but then I guess they can probably do without mine, sometimes they spill out of me against my will)., is incredible.

This is one of the reasons that I find Sail Aid so moving. Two young men got in a dinghy and sailed around the island. They had to rely to some extent on their wits, and on their ability to meet (in their words) Very Nice People. Of course their families were there backing them up, driving to meet them at the end of the day to check they were okay, but there was a definite elasticizing of the apron strings as they sailed further away from their mums. However all the way on their journey they found people who wanted to help them, who wanted to give them a meal or a shower or help them with the boat, so the village, or in our case, the island was teaching them about some of the best parts of human nature.

I proudly count myself amongst the ranks of Very Nice People, as I helped them to set up their blog and Facebook page, and helped them to initially get in touch with the newspapers. And I am very happy to announce that on Thursday December 5th at 7pm the Sail Aid guys will give a talk to The Supper Club at Mood Beach. They will be selling the book that they have written about their amazing summer of 2013. Hope you can join me and them and encourage these two remarkable young people.

 

 

Click here for Sail Aid.

Click here for Mediterranea.

Click here for Ondine.

 

Comment? Moi?

Spain Buddy It’s a strange life, being a blogger.

You get asked to contribute to all sorts of things.

Last week I was asked to contribute to this article about Mallorca.

Hope I didn’t make a prat of myself, but this is always a possibility.

Nice to be asked to comment.

You can leave a comment at the end of the article if you want to contribute as well.

That time of year

from: http://blog.timesunion.com/payitforward/all-susan-stricklean/2003/

PLEASE SIGN THE PETITION HERE: CLICK HERE!

The summer holidays aren’t finished yet? Are you kidding me? There’s STILL another five weeks to go? WHAT? REALLY?

La Gidg, and I are struggling. We’re struggling with protracted (ridiculously protracted in my opinion, but you probably already figured that out) holidays, with the heat, with what she wants versus what I have to do, and with each other. Showdowns about tidying up her bedroom are happening on a daily basis, I fear that we may not get out of the vacations alive. It’s hard to explain to someone who doesn’t have kids of school age just exactly what a miserable thing it can be to have a child off school for three months whilst you are also trying to work for a living.

I have practiced and honed my argument about the length of the Mallorca summer holidays over many years now, so forgive me if you’ve heard this one before. We live on an island, the island’s main income comes from tourism which is at its peak during the summer months, most of the people who live on the island and have children at public schools on the island also work in the tourism industry or are in some way connected to the industry, which means that they are at their busiest in the middle of the summer, so why make the long school break coincide with this time? How can anyone enjoy this when they have to struggle with kids moaning and complaining about summer school (why don’t they ever seem to enjoy it?), you can’t work properly if your children are unhappy or not settled in their school. Why instead can’t we take a long break in December and January and February? You know what answer you get to this question? That it is too hot in the schools in the summer. I have two words: Air Conditioning. They have to heat the schools in the winter, why not just swap that attitude around?

Teachers and schools aren’t babysitters, and they’re probably the only ones who actually want to have three months off in the summer. But understand this, this the money that I pay for my daughter to attend summer school so that my husband and I can continue to work and earn money for our family and pay our taxes? Yeah, you guessed it; we can’t include it in our accounts and expenses. It’s almost as if the Spanish Government thinks that this is a luxury. It’s almost as if the Spanish Government thinks that the woman should stay at home and look after the children . . . ah, hang on a minute. . . Let’s start a revolution, I want to campaign for parents in business to be able to claim for their child care.

PLEASE SIGN THE PETITION HERE: CLICK HERE!

A very long weekend

After what has been an extremely long weekend (normally that would be something to look forward to) I am relieved to think that perhaps all of the fires are out now and we can resume our normal lives. Last week I was telling you about the Nit de L’Art in my little village, s’Arracó which is in the Andratx area. Little did we know that the next day we would be hitting the headlines again for our own personal Nit de Foc (night of fire). After a sleepless night watching the hills which surround our village burning and then three more days of constant helicopter flights and Twitter updates with the fire spreading to St Elm and back up to Estellencs and over to the Galatzo estate some things have become very clear to me.

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500 portions of salad
(No sign of a Big Mac though)

1) If you are going to have a natural disaster don’t worry about catering as the local people will literally bring crate upon crate of food until you are begging for them to stop. “No more bocadillos!” was one of the Twitter updates from our local council where the operations room was. We saw photos of mounds of fruit and vegetables, stacks and stacks of boxes of salad, buckets of bottled water.

2) Don’t believe anything unless you have seen it yourself or it has come from an official source. Really. Gossip spreads like wild fire (I know, couldn’t be helped), and is just speculation. It only frightens people more.

3) If you haven’t already been to the Sa Trapa area of St Elm and had a walk up there to enjoy the beautiful surroundings and views, well you’d better get in touch with http://www.gobmallorca.com the local environmental group here on our island which will be getting the rehabilitation project for the area underway in September. The area is stunning but has been severely damaged by the fire and now resembles the surface of the moon. You can visit their website and sign up to volunteer right there on the front page. The site is in Catalan but if you can’t read Catalan then view it through an internet browser that does instant translations and you will be fine.

4) Our local community has balls of steel. Everyone stuck together, offered help and stayed calm.

5) We are extremely lucky to have such amazing fire fighters, both on the ground and in the air. What an incredibly brave group of people.

Matthew Clark

Thank you. 

6) The guy who started the fire by accident did so by disposing of smouldering embers from the previous night’s bbq. It was not a German resident burning stubble in his garden. (see point number 2).

For now, let’s appreciate and care for what we have been blessed to live amongst, please don’t throw cigarette ends out of your car, don’t burn rubbish in your back garden and don’t leave a BBQ unattended. It really can happen, just like that, and don’t we all know it now.

Stay safe. Vx

(P.S. I’ll tell you about the Night of Art and the “peg crisis”, and the Stand Up Comedy course, Wendy, brown trousers and performances next time).  

P.P.S. Thank you to Matthew Clark for the amazing photo of the airborne firefighters.