Marta Andreu: “Children prefer Santa Claus brings them a place to have dinner with their family before any toy”

Marta Andreu: "Los niños prefieren que Papá Noel les regale un lugar para cenar junto a su familia antes que un juguete"

We interview Marta Andreu, founder of AEA, an entity focused on the La Matica project, helping children in the Dominican Republic, with the collaboration of CMV-Architects

Who is Marta Andreu?

I am president and founder of the Solidary Association of Aeronautic Workers (AEA). When the Haiti earthquake happened, I was working as a stewardess with Air Europa and I thought that, since we had free flights to the Dominican Republic, I could try to help. I asked if anyone was interested in joining me on social media and two more people volunteered. As of today we’ve been working on specific campaigns in Ethiopia, Haiti and other places for 7 years.

Haiti was your first project as an association.

We built a school for 200 children there that, on top of educating them, it turned into the place where they could have their only meal of the day. Now that project is handled by the NGO “Acoger y Acompañar”, with employees who reside there. The school is, of course, still working. From there we started solidary breakfasts in Ethiopia, in which we gave a piece of bread and a glass of milk to 187 kids in a school. Also, in India we were financing a nutritional project for 760 children consisting in giving each one a daily boiled egg and a nutritional drink Monday to Saturday. Just by adding this child mortality rates in that community dropped by 70%. The Vicente Ferrer foundation was the one who got in touch with us and we didn’t hesitate to help.

When did the association, just as we know it today, start?

We created it in Palma in 2013, under the Solidary Association of Aeronautic Workers (AEA) name. From that formalization we have two heavy projects going, one in Bolivia and the other in the Dominican Republic. The one in Bolivia is an orphanage with 106 orphans or abandoned by their parents because they don’t have the means to take care of them. These little ones have their needs covered, they eat cereal and rice and sometimes, with luck, some chicken that they have to split among them. Obviously they also don’t have any education, health services, clothing… Our job is to cover all those needs through management of a religious order of the area. We send school materials, clothing and medicine each month.

What can you tell us about the Dominican Republic project?

In Boca Chica we have a day center in which we help 500 children, most of them Haitian who left in search of a better place and have been occupying areas that people in the DR don’t care for. In general, they eat three times a day, live stacked up in houses, and don’t have any of their basic needs covered… For example, the other day we visited a woman who takes care of her eight children on her own since her husband abandoned them. Now the kids have to take turns to sit on the only chair they have to eat. The campaign this Christmas consists on inviting them to dinner all together on the table, and they actually prefer that to a toy, as they have told us directly.

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What’s the situation in that area?

The educational system can be improved. On top of receiving an education, our children have a place to be during the day, something crucial as the street are dangerous. There we have our right hand, Esperanza, a sort of mulatto Mother Theresa of Calcutta.

What kind of specific problems do you find?

One of the most important ones we find is children coming to our center from further and further because they know that at least there they’ll be busy. With time, more and more are arriving, thus giving us a need to start the project we call “La Matica”.

What is “La Matica”?

It’s going to be our new center. The name comes from a popular Dominican song and it represents a place of protection; the children chose it. We contacted CMV-Architects to see if they could lend a hand with the plans, since they have worked in the DR before and have contacts there. They’ve done a fabulous job: for example, the building adapts completely to the needs of the place as it removes the blinds in the higher floors so that there’s better ventilation. At this point I’ll take the chance to mention the human quality of the CMV-Architects team. Their sensibility and predisposition when facing this project have been amazing.

The center is planned to have an area for a social dining room, the first need to fulfill, and a room to run educational workshops both for kids and adults. A lot of them need it as they’re not really aware that their kids need to go to school. One of the children, Christopher, had his house burn down due to the bad quality of the materials they were forced to build it with. We told him to ask Santa Claus for a present and, evidently, he asked for a new house for his family. We build them a small brick house, very basic, but they thought it was wonderful. The only prerequisite to this is the parents making sure Christopher went to school every day.

What other needs still need covering?

Once they have fulfilled their educational tasks, they can enjoy fun activities. Before they used to play baseball, but we were lucky enough to have Vicente del Bosque visiting and, since then, all they want to do is play football. On top of that, the Rayo Vallecano gifted them three full sets of equipment each and 200 pairs of sneakers. Now there’s no life without football, but they needed a bigger space. We were lacking 1,000 meters of terrain and near the center we were working on there are almost 56,000 square meters of jungle and no one knows who it belongs to. We presented the project to the mayor and he was fascinated by it, but we still need that terrain. Currently we’re trying to find out who the owner is so that we can make an offer for it. This process can extend in time, but at AEA we are ready to do all the necessary efforts to involve local authorities, who are very cooperative with these types of projects.