Every time I think back about how Mediterránea developed into such an effective organization with so few resources, I can’t help but be amazed.
There were 6 of us at the outset with just a bit of money that each of us had paid into the account to start things moving, whereas now we are helping more than 2,500 children in 2 continents. It wasn’t easy; at times, as many of you know, it was even dangerous just keeping the programmes going. We had to deal with corruption, mafia-like behavior, blatant threats of physical violence as well as veiled threats and general harassment. Over the years Mediterránea has been supported and helped by scores of wonderful people, some of whom have left the organization as their lives led them in different directions, while others have continued to build and nurture our various programmes.
Month after month, in spite of the crisis, we have been able to honour our commitments. The crisis has not stopped us but has hampered us operationally and reduced our ability to expand. It has also given us many a sleepless night. We have on occasions had to adjust this or that programme or sub-programme in order to safeguard their continuity- much to our dislike, but where we had no choice.
One good thing to have come out of the crisis is the fact that NGOs are now working together more and more, helping one another and sharing material, know-how and volunteers. The role of schools, from nurseries right through to secondary schools, is becoming more important by the day for organizations such as ours. In cooperating with Mediterránea, many of these schools use this as an opportunity to teach their pupils solidarity, organizational skills, team-work and even how to make video spots and other advertising techniques. I know children who have grown up with Mediterránea. They see it as something that is always there ready to help the needy and which is helped in turn by their parents and also by themselves at school. I feel proud to think that we have helped to “normalize” solidarity as an integral part of the daily lives of so many “first world” boys and girls.
As is well known, all of us who make up Mediterránea’s driving force are volunteers. All our active members devote the time they can to the organization. Mediterránea pays no salaries in the “first world”, which has allowed us to dedicate all our funds to our programmes but which also has a downside- that of not always having the manpower we needed when we needed it, which meant that at times a huge load was placed on a limited number of shoulders. But even then we were able to keep things moving and now, with greater sensitivity and motivation at large in society as a whole, we are drawing in many marvelous new volunteers to help with our programmes.
I should like to thank you all for helping us to realize our dream of human companionship and for giving us the hope that we shall be able to continue growing, helping more and more children. The future belongs to them and the little help we can give them, particularly in their moments of greatest vulnerability and need, will make all the difference.