If I venture outside my apartment at all in Spain, it’s impossible to miss signs of the economic recession. As I walk to the train station, I am stopped by people begging for money; every time I use the metro there are people asking for help to feed their families and young children; and on a simple walk through the city centre I am witness to numerous people with a wide range of disabilities begging for help for things such as food, clothes and medicine.
Besides people asking for money on the streets, I honestly can say I have never seen so many homeless people in my life. Albeit the climate in Spain may permit it more throughout the year than the United Kingdom, but during this past winter I have experienced weather far colder than what we’re used to in Northern Ireland.
While it is extremely sad to see so many people in need of help, there are a few organisations in Madrid that provide food and warm clothes which the people can’t afford themselves. Although, they aren’t receiving money it is a big help for them.
Shortly before Christmas, there were a group of homeless men living near my flat that I walked past every day so one day when it was particularly cold I decided to buy them some warm food and they could not have been more grateful. When I arrived back to Spain in January they had moved on to a different spot which was quite sad as they were all very pleasant. As I live on one of the busiest streets in Madrid, their former site was taken up quickly by a group that caused more problems.
The shortage of money extends further than I ever could have imagined. In the school where I teach, parents have trouble finding the money needed to buy their children books and basic school supplies and this makes it especially difficult because there are very few resources available from the state. Obviously not having school books can greatly affect their education and how well they do in school.
It can be heart-breaking to see however it does inspire you to offer any help you can but while at the same time being cautious so as not to offend.