Because of any lack of vision for the future of Mojácar and greediness to put money in their pockets at the moment, instead of thinking of the future gold-mine that lay ahead, Mojácar lost its chance to be one of the leading centers for Animal Assisted Therapy in Europe. Over twenty-five years ago I started, on my own, a farm school and petting zoo which I let the school use for free. Then I started the first AAT program in Spain providing Therapeutic Riding, farm school and native wildlife park. Four times we were donated land, ten hectares each time, only to have it taken away again after all the plans were drawn up and the projects financing granted. It was then used for something else, in two cases totally fictitious, only to get the grant money. I put on five international conferences, with speakers from various countries, and several courses including two for the University of Almería. When the head of the ONCE was at an international meeting for the disabled in Australia, he was speaking to the head of the local organization, who was explaining to him about AAT and all of the benefits and programs around the world, most of whom were at this conference; the head of the ONCE said it was a shame that Spain had no such program, only to be told that one of the best programs in Europe at the time was right here in Mojácar. I had actually met with the head of the ONCE several times to talk about my program but he obviously thought it wasn’t worth the bother. It was actually he who told me after he returned from the conference how embarrassed he was! The disabled organization in Almería (I won’t say ‘who’) actually helped me to get my paperwork and non-profit licence only to steal the grant when it finally arrived for the first training center in Europe for training dogs for the disabled, therapeutic riding and farm school.
It was not just a functioning center and educational place for the school-children but also a place for people to come from all over the world to learn how to work in these fields. The architectural plans actually included a covered riding ring with bleachers and a restaurant overlooking the ring plus stables where people could board their horses, petting zoo, a small veterinary clinic and emergency room, school with accredited teachers and a full course with degree in any of the branches of AAT. It would have been a place for the whole community and tourists to visit. The ring was designed so that it could be used for concerts or football games and may other events. All of the training of the animals and the classes for the disabled had its own separate area within the grounds.
We ran for almost fifteen year starting small until we had over forty students, all Spanish, severely physically disabled, and more than forty volunteers, almost all foreign, including a vet, doctor, physiotherapist and riding instructor and me as the coordinator, all on my own property with my own animals at no cost to the students and no help from the Town Hall. Now that it has become fashionable there are a lot of EU grants available and people without the slightest knowledge of what they are doing are starting up centers all over Spain. If Mojácar had only thought ahead a little we could have been the front-runners in this field for all of Europe and held International conferences to fill the hotels and students to come and study. I travelled all over Europe giving lectures and going to conferences representing Spain and was on the board of directors of the FRDI for four years, still Mojácar never helped. We trained five dogs to start with, to help people in wheelchairs and for the deaf, but had to drop the program due to lack of funds.
Money is available for grants, and there are even agents out there who will help organisations find this funding – for a flat 20%. It is no secret that a lot of ‘charity money’ ends up stolen, and even large and well-known organisations in Spain have been caught. It is almost considered ‘normal’ – so who on earth is going to help fund a group run by foreign residents?
Funding for a charity is key; but it’s also pretty hard to keep afloat if the national and local authorities won’t help.
We held quite a few fundraising events; with the only benefit to ANIMO was the money from the sale of drinks during the day. One such event was Burro Baseball. It was a huge success and the only place in Europe to hold such a game plus we did something to help honour the disappearing Spanish donkey. It was filmed on TV and it did not cost Mojácar one penny and could have put them on the map. We did it for seven years with the help of the American Naval Base at Rota, who provided all of the equipment every year and even one year they sent a bus of twenty-three marines to play against Mojácar. When we started to have a shortage of donkeys to play, Mojácar refused to help and the game was dropped. We also held the first pop concert with Spain’s most famous rock star, Miguel Rios, and a chorus accompanying in sign language which was also televised and Mojácar never paid any attention. Our politicians couldn’t see beyond the ends of their noses. Now it is too late: I had to stop due to lack of personal funding and bad health. I am now back in the game but helping others start their programs.