While I have been living in Spain I have had the privilege to know some of the most interesting people. I have always worked in charity and have found that a lot of them are complete frauds but many are wonderful, it is very important to find out where the money goes to and follow the progress of the charity you have chosen.
Every year I wrote a supplement for my husband’s paper The Entertainer. I wrote one on animals, one on ecology, one on NGOs, and one on education. The full page promotion was given free, to each group and I found banks etc. to sponsor the articles and ads. The one thing I learned is that the front page lead story had to be by someone important and internationally known, and then it was a breeze to get sponsors. I had a lot of way-out ideas and was often taunted by the staff but I am pleased to say that all of my celebrities except Prince Charles were forthcoming. I had a lovely letter from Prince Charles apologizing, but due to the media frenzy around Lady Di he was unable to comply with my request for an article.
I had seen a talk on T.V. given by Pope John Paul II on ecology and thought I would give him a try to see if he would be interested in helping. I had no idea how to start and no one believed in me, but a friend sent me a sarcastic letter saying that if I really wanted the Pope I should call this number. After screwing up my courage I called. I spoke to a charming man in a strange mixture of languages, after understanding what I was after, the secretary told me I had to go through the press office, who sent me packing. A day later I got a call from the Vatican from this lovely man who would not give me his name, however he passed me his Holiness’ private secretary’s number. On calling him and explaining my project, he said he would present my proposal to His Holiness and get back to me. After a few weeks I received a letter from an archbishop in Spain who memorably said “patience child patience”. Some time later, an article arrived from the Pope together with a photograph and a nice letter from some senior Vatican staffer. No one could believe it. My feeling was, it’s always worth a shot.
I also contacted the representative of the Dalai Lama in Spain, Who said he would try and pass my message on but that the Dalai Lama was traveling and very busy. I was very pleased when I finally did receive a letter and picture, which we actually had to edit because it was so long. On another occasion, I wrote to the Queen of Spain, about her anti-drug charity, F.A.D. She was very pleased to help and I was actually invited to the palace to receive the photo and article and meet with the head of her charity.
Another fascinating man I met was Padre Angel, a world known priest who has spent his whole life helping every kind of person in need and setting up centers to help them all over the globe. He could not have been kinder or more helpful and he came down expressly to Mojácar to see our facilities and also kindly invited me various different centres he runs in Madrid and Extremadura. I was introduced to him by a man from Telefónica called Paco Limonche, who believed in me from the beginning and helped me with contacts and invited us to an international convention in Madrid where our service dogs did demonstrations and even appeared in a small television advert for the phone company.
Here is a picture of Padre Angel when he came to visit ANIMO, I subsequently helped him with other projects.
Another supplement I did was on horses. I was put in touch with Her Royal Highness, Princess Beatriz, president of the Arab Horse Association, who was so kind and comforting because as an American I had no idea how to deal with royalty. I met her in her office in Madrid. I did not know if I had to curtsy or bow or kiss her hand but we just sat down and had tea and talked about horses and my charity. She was charming and knowledgeable and friendly.
I have met so many wonderful people here from shepherds to royalty, they all have their story to tell and have all made me feel so welcome and blessed to have made their acquaintance. I did many more supplements but you get the idea of what I mean when I say this is a wonderful country and very genuine people.