This is the story of María, a fictitious name that serves to protect the identity of the minor. It is not for less: she was left alone in the world at four months of life. Her parents left her with a severe disability and never came back to her for her. The Government of Spain then became her legal guardian and she went on to live in a center for supervised minors in a city by the sea. At her young age, she had to spend whole days in the hospital alone, without anyone accompanying her or giving her a hug. There, in that hospital, María and Julia, 55 years old (fictitious name), met. They started by spending a few hours together and ended up forming a family.
Julia, who didn’t know her at all, spent 24 hours a day with her at the medical center. She always thought that she would never want to see her children sick with her in a clinic, especially if they had to go through it alone. “A few hours of loving care can change a child’s life,” she says. Mother of three teenagers, she was very shocked to think that there were children near her house who had no one to put them to bed or receive them after school. At that time, she got to know the world of foster families and she became a volunteer for Mamás en Acción, an NGO that has just turned 10 years old and whose work consists of accompanying minors alone in hospitals.
Among the more than 600 children that the organization has accompanied over the years was María, who later became part of Julia’s family. First as a foster home for her and now as a fully fledged legal daughter after nine years of paperwork. When the little girl began to ask questions about her biological parents, they always explained everything to her like a story. And now she is the one who also wants to help other children like her when she grows up.
In Spain there are more than 35,000 minors under guardianship, according to data from Mamás en Acción. Of these, 16,991 live in centers. The law establishes that foster care must be prioritized, although this is often not fulfilled. In fact, the percentage of minors in centers has risen since 2014, from 41.5% to 47.3% in 2022, indicates the same association. This means that in Spain there are more and more children alone. For this reason, the association has launched the campaign not a single childwhich goes beyond the hospital stay and whose objective is that there are no minors in care in a reception center throughout the country.
“It is urgent that the Administration promote foster care for all these children who are growing up in sheltered centers where, no matter how much they are cared for, the warmth of a family can never be replaced,” stresses the founder, Majo Gimeno, who launched this NGO out of necessity and frustration. During a visit to a hospital, she saw a child who was not even two years old and who was alone. When he asked if she could accompany him, they told him no: she simply did not belong to an association, nor was she his mother or a relative of hers. In that moment she knew that she wanted to dedicate her life so that no child would ever have to be alone again. Now, there are more than 3,000 volunteers throughout Spain who give their time in 24 hospitals in different cities. For example, the Santa Lucía Hospital (Murcia); Virgen de la Macarena Hospital (Seville) and the Rey Juan Carlos Hospital (Madrid). They accumulate more than 36,000 hours of accompaniment with a single objective: “We want to become that mother who is always at the foot of the bed.”
“The hospitals themselves are calling us when they see the work we are developing. There is a gap in the system that we must fill. We cannot tolerate that there is not even one child hospitalized alone”, explains the founder.
Gimeno assures that there is scientific evidence that the company during hospitalization accelerates the healing of the child and, in the case of minors immersed in a situation of violence, it also prevents them from repeating the patterns in adulthood.
Alfonso Cruz is separated and has four children. When he is not with his children, he takes advantage and accompanies someone in need. “The first time I went to the hospital to accompany me, an abandoned baby touched me. When I put it on her chest I could see how she relaxed and she fell asleep, I will never forget her”, she recalls. All the volunteers agree that his work is pure magic. “My first accompaniment was with a 14-year-old teenager and, honestly, I was very nervous. But everything flowed in such a way that it was very beautiful. He was very affectionate. Although there are experiences of all kinds, they all take something from you”, says Yolanda, another of the hundreds of volunteers of this NGO.
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