Studying abroad in Madrid has been one of the most amazing experiences I have ever had. In addition to traveling, shopping, and getting to know new people and culture, I wanted to get involved with the community to give back to my host city. That is why I signed up for a cultural activity organized by ISA Madrid’s Cultural Activities Coordinator, Anna Beltrame. Anna set up the opportunity for us to volunteer for a charity called Ningún Niño sin Sonrisa. The organization has been running since 2009, with the mission to keep the illusion of Christmas among homes in Madrid, regardless of their family situation. The non-profit organization has been able to give Christmas presents to children in need and do other activities that have been carried out by and for the children.
Everyone who is part of the association is a volunteer, so there is no hired staff, and no one receives financial compensation for their work. Likewise, the association is self-subsidizing.
The organization hosts solidarity markets where they sell toys and clothing in order to raise funds which are used to cover the expenses derived from the rent of the premises, electricity, and water. If there is money left over from the market, it is used for campaigns, such as summer camps and equipment like backpacks for children. No public or private contribution is received to cover maintenance expenses.
At Ningún Niño sin Sonrisa, I was able to participate with five other ISA students to arrange the new clothes and toys for an upcoming solidarity market. We unboxed and selected clothing, hung them by sizes, fixed the shoe racks, checked if the toys worked properly, and arranged empty boxes for future use since everything that is given is used until it does not work anymore.
Volunteering is a beautiful thing to do and if you are in a different country I’ll assure you that you’ll feel more satisfied than ever. It is also a wonderful way to see the world from a different perspective, learn more about the culture you are volunteering in, and make an impact in the country you’ve visited.