Ana Ortega is the soul of the association Marbella Voluntaria that has been supporting the people of Marbella for the last eight years. The association has about 150 volunteers that help and support the elderly and people with health problems. The volunteers support elderly people in their daily walks, read books to people that are visually impaired, help mothers with the care of their sick children, listen to those that are lonely and have no one to talk to and cry with. Ana and the volunteers of Marbella Voluntaria are aware of the social issues of our city. The volunteers of Marbella Voluntaria have visited hundreds of homes in Marbella and have seen many dramatic situations, and for that reason, they are aware that the social reality of the city is not as bright as it seems in advertising campaigns.
The people that require the support of Marbella Voluntaria are called users, the majority of which are old lonely people, but there are also sick children and disabled people in need of care. Ana believes that the disintegration of the family is one of the biggest problems of our society, the cancer of the 21st century as she calls it. She explains that only a few years ago three generations would have lived together, but in the Marbella of today: grandparents live alone, parents work and are away from home most of the day, and after school, children spend their time watching television and on their computer. Today, children are copying patterns and values from the famous TV characters. These values and behaviours are far beyond the reality of their lives. In TV’s golden world, people are concerned about their bodies and fitness, and about branding and consume. It seems that people have forgotten that beauty doesn’t depend on money. The first time a child meets a person with a mental or physical disability, the child feels repulsion towards a face that is not similar to the ones on TV, but through repeated contact, the child changes its attitude and starts engaging with and enjoying the company of the disabled person.
Ana gives lectures at schools and advocates that solidarity is a vital tool, an essential social attribute. She says that giving to others is a great source of joy and happiness. Ana recounts the story of a woman that was deeply depressed after her unsuccessful marriage, and that instead of pitying herself and paying a psychologist, decided to start volunteering for Marbella Voluntaria. After a few days volunteering, she called Ana to tell her that she hadn’t been so happy in years, and that the person she was helping adored her for the support. This volunteer had realised that her situation wasn’t that dramatic after all, specially if compared to that of the person she was helping. Strangely enough, when we talk about personal and difficult situations, as for example how the world crisis is affecting our lives, we tend to do so by comparing ourselves with others. If we were to compare ourselves with the pretty people on TV, we might not stand a chance, but if we were to compare ourselves with one of the users that depend on the support provided by Marbella Voluntaria, our personal situations are probably not dramatic at all.
It is quite sad that each day less and less public funding gets spend in helping disadvantaged people, even the Unicaja Fundation in Málaga funds activities such as sports, but Ana has never received funding from this banking institution to help the poor and ill people that live amongst us. However, Ana prefers that Marbella Voluntaria keeps its autonomy, and therefore fundraises the association through independent donations instead of seeking funding from only one organisation that might want to change the agenda of this association.
Ana thinks that we should all learn to be more generous and humble, and to share the goods that our city generates. Ana comments that the breach between rich and poor is becoming bigger and bigger, and that the middle class is slowly disappearing. Maybe the so called crisis will have a positive side after all, as it will make us reflect on the situation and allow us to find happiness in the contact with people, instead of in consume culture. Ana says that she misses the dialogue between people, and hopes that this lack of communication, empathy and sharing will be overcome, and that the human values that are vanishing will be reinstalled. Many of Marbella Voluntaria users have discovered that only when there is shortage people start realising the loss of values. Ana strongly believes that one of the most powerful weapons against the crisis is to ask oneself what could one do to help mitigating the effects of the crisis in the people of Marbella.
To become a volunteer, please contact the association Marbella Voluntaria on 952 861 123