'Holidays in Peace' programme for foster children in Almeria

2011: Saharan children in the summer foster programme.

A GARRUCHA family that fosters children from the North African desert every summer will welcome their, ‘daughter,’ back into their home next month.

However, the organisation that brings the under-nourished children from refugee camps to Almeria every summer, is in serious economical hardship.

The Friends of Sahara association (SAS) in Almeria, needs 25 more foster families for children aged between 8 and 12.

The objective of their “Holidays in Peace,” programme is to provide Saharan children with sufficient healthcare and nutrition to get them through the winter.

Many sponsors have cancelled their funding because of the recession, and it costs the SAS about 600€ to bring each child to Spain.

Martin Parra and his wife Lola, of Garrucha have already given a summer home to three different children since the SAS programme began in Almeria in the late nineties.

sahara2
NO-MANS LAND: Refugee camps in Algeria.
He said that it’s an extremely valuable experience for them and their two sons.

They have grown emotionally, learned a lot, and receive a lot of continual love and thanks from the foster children and their families.

Another family in Garrucha is currently fostering a Saharan child all year round so that she can get a high school education.

Parra said that there were about five families involved in the programme in the Garrucha area altogether.

The children were born in refugee camps in the Algerian desert because when Morocco invaded Western Sahara, their families were forced to escape across the Algerian border.

The people are citizens of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR) which is not an officially recognised state or country.

SADR people are therefore not entitled to passports and cannot usually travel abroad.

SAS children are able to travel with a special collective passport issued by Algeria.

SADR mother, Nguia Salama Abdu said that although it’s hard saying good bye to her children for the summer, the SAS is invaluable for them and their well-being. She said that she is really grateful and proud to be part of the programme.

Critics of the Holidays in Peace programme have argued that bringing children from their harsh, impoverished living conditions for just two months can be cruel, confusing and pointless.

Parra argues that children are flexible and open to new experiences. “Would it be better for these children not to receive vital healthcare and nutrition at all?”

He added that when the children return to SADR after the summer, they take food, medicine, clothes and essential gifts that make a big difference to their whole family’s quality of life.

To offer a loving home to a Saharan child from the middle or June, for two months this summer, call 661 971 519 or 661 971 521.

Visit the friends of the Sahara office on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 6.30 – 8.30pm, in Aguadulce, (Calle La Venta, 5).

See their website www.sahara-almeria.es.tl, for more information, photos and videos.

By Susan Leach
[email protected]
 

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