The Fundacion Catalana De Paralisis Cerebral is an organization set in Barcelona that assists people with cerebral palsy. Through this organization, volunteers accompany young people on outings to shop, see a movie, and go to the theatre. This allows for young adults and kids to socialize with peers their age, while doing fun activities. It also allows for parents and caregivers to have some free time, as caring for children with disabilities can be taxing. Additional activities include sports training through Swimming, Slalom and Boccia. Painting workshops allow for additional therapy, and volunteers can also help assist in residence halls. I was really excited about this experience because I have been fortunate enough to work with children with Cerebral Palsy before. UNfortunatley, the boy I was set to do a painting workshop with became sick, just like everyone else in Barcelona right now. I was really bummed out, but am currently communicating with the foundation to set up something for one of the coming weeks.
Due to this last minute change of events, I didn’t have much time to set up something new. So I decided to make my own service project. On Tuesdays I only have class until 10:45, and then I usually go exploring around the city. One of my favorite things to do after a long weekend of travel is go to Barcelonetta beach. Upon my arrival in Barcelona, I was happy to see that the beaches were fairly clean. Unfortunately, as the weather becomes nicer the beaches become more crowded and a great deal of garbage is left behind. I remember my professor Toni, with whom I conducted my interview earlier in the semester, saying that Barcelona does not do enough for the environment. Spain is said to be the most polluted country in Europe. In 2014, the pollution levels exceeded the safe levels by 150 times (thelocal). Many cities are landlocked, and therefore get little wind. As a result polluted air lingers around many major cities like Madrid. In Barcelona, I solely use public transportation, and I separate out all of my garbage. So I wondered, how could I make a difference here?
I spent a warm Tuesday afternoon cleaning up Barcelonetta beach to the best of my ability. The larger garbage items were easy to take care of; the difficult part was taking care of the insane number of cigarette buts in the sand. Having previously traveled to Europe I knew that they smoked a lot here, but living here for 3 months has showed me that this problem is out of control. Back in the States, I received my scuba diving license when I was 14. Throughout my years of diving, I’ve seen more trash polluting the ocean than you can imagine. I worried that fish would eat these cigarette butts, so I tried to collect as many as I could. I actually counted as I went. I found 109. And that was only in one section of the beach.
The most rewarding part of this experience was when a group of locals approached me and thanked me for cleaning up. Volunteering in a foreign country is just as important as volunteering at home. It allows us to not only help the community we are in, but at the same time we learn more about our surroundings. For example, before coming here I did not know that Spain was the largest contributor to pollution in Europe. Learning this made me want to help even more than before. I really liked the quote, “Everyone can be great, because everyone can serve” by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. This simple quote means so much, because it is saying that everyone has potential to make a difference in this world. If each and every one of us contributes even just the slightest bit to those in need, we would live in a much different world than we do today.