Melilla, Spain is one of the most culturally diverse places that Convoy of Hope Europe (COHEU) has the privilege of making a difference in. For those of you who do not know what or where, Melilla, Spain is, it is a six square mile enclave that is located in Morocco, Africa but it is owned by Spain. It has a population of 73,000+ registered, most of whom are Berber people and a large population of unregistered immigrants who are mostly African. Since it is owned by Spain is a part of the EU, its border with Morocco is very well defined by the 18ft high, three layer, heavily guarded, razor wire covered fence which keeps the majority of people out. Each year thousands try to climb this fence. It is estimated that hundreds of people all with the same dream to reach what they would call freedom make it each year. It is mostly people from all over Africa who have fled the harsh conditions of their environment. Some spend their entire lives migrating to Melilla in hopes of a better life.
This being the migration location that so many hurting people long for creates an environment of apathy, desperation, and emptiness. Most of these people have only ever known pain or oppression. Most of them have never been lent a helping hand or had a kind word spoken to them. A challenging place for sure, with needs out in the open, just not televised. The tyrannous aspect of it all is the fact that the humanitarian crisis within Melilla is kept a secret from the rest of the world, most people in the world are oblivious to the fact that Melilla even exists. That is why when we found out about Melilla, Spain and the need for hope we acted, not only with support but with hands on giving, changing and a determination to genuinely love others.
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It was Saturday, June 4, 2011. The weather was perfect, a crystal clear sky. Sunlight was peaking out from behind the buildings. The land was cleared and prepped. The large blue and white tent was lifted high and the green grocery bags were packed with an assortment of food. Hours before the event a large line of people had gathered and were looking in on the stations that were set up for them with great anticipation. At 10 a.m. the gates open allowing the first round of people in to explore the activities that were provided for them. The first stop after entering the gate is a barbecue pit where each person will receive a freshly made hamburger and an ice cold drink of their choice. The expressions on their faces after receiving something so simple as a hamburger and a drink are priceless. Like a kid at Christmas, they were all smiles. After being given a hot meal the kids and parents went separate ways. The kids were taken to the opposite end of the field where they could enjoy a clown, sing and dance with interactive songs, play soccer, and blow bubbles. Every kid had a smile on their face, enjoying the day knowing that they are safe and that their only objective is to have fun. As the kids were having a blast the adults were on the other side, enjoying free medical care, dental work, haircuts, manicures and hand massages.
COHEU intern, Rebecca Kenny was giving hand massages to each woman who came through the line that Saturday. What was it like being an advocate for hope through giving hand massages to the women in Melilla, Spain?
“Given the opportunity to give these women a hand massage was a privilege for me. Such luxuries, are not regularly enjoyed by women in this culture. Throughout the outreach I began to think of the easy opportunities I have to go to the beauty salon and be pampered. For these women this does not happen. While giving one lady a massage I noticed how tough and calloused her hands felt. This reminded me of how hard these women work everyday, doing jobs that we would consider hard labour. From this experience I was given a glimpse into the difficult lives of these stoned faced women and the lack of support they receive from the men of this culture. The work of COHEU at these events allows these women to receive a short break and an opportunity to be pampered. Bringing hope and showing love is something that COHEU has always successfully achieved.”
What an awesome experience you had Rebecca and thank you for helping impact and bring hope to the women in Melilla, Spain.
As the day went on and the activities were still being enjoyed by others some of the people were brought in groups into the large blue and white tent that was towards the exit in groups. In the tent there was music, a drama, and a short presentation of hope and self worth was given to the people. The presentation was the all-inclusive, cherry on top of the ice cream that was a joyful, hope-filled, encouraging, life changing day in lives of the people in Melilla, Spain. Upon exiting the tent each person was given a green grocery bag filled with groceries for their family and again more smiles from a once hurting group of people.
In conclusion there were about 1,200 people that walked through the field and participated in the day’s events That is 1,200 people who were given a chance, told that they are loved, and ultimately changed by hope. COHEU saw a void in Melilla, Spain and based on your support we were able to fill that void, compelled by compassion, one life at a time.
Thank you for your thoughts, support, and prayers.
George Westlake IV
Convoy Of Hope Europe
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