A Little Help From My Friends – Wildfire on the Costa del Sol

As I ploughed through the internet looking for updates on Saturday morning following the outbreak of the wildfire on the Costa del Sol, I came across two photographs that meant I could no longer sit there and do nothing. The first showed five donkeys and horses fleeing the flames; the second, the burnt face of a cat which had been too frightened to escape.

Donkeys, Mules and Horses flee flames.
Picture by Lluís Serrat. Published by El Punt

This turned out to be one of several “fake” photos being circulated that morning. In actual fact it had been taken during a fire in Catalunya. Still the sentiment is the same. The cat picture was genuine but far too distressing to publish here. I have instead included a picture of the refuge where it was living to show you the extent of the damage:

Cat refuge with severe fire damage.

It was the day after my birthday and I had received some money from family: €50 which I thought I could use to buy some water and dog food for the animal rescue shelters in need. Thinking that a few fellow animal crazy friends might want to help, I sent out a message asking if they would like me to spend €10 on their behalf. The replies came pouring in from nearly all of them wanting to contribute, having not known what they could do to help. Even people in the UK that saw my message on Facebook were pledging money! As I drove to the supermarket my phone continued to ping and by the time I arrived I had €200 to spend, plus my original €50 and a lovely trolley pushing helper too!

The day got crazier and crazier. The more I read about who needed help the more desperate I was to find a way to contribute. Luckily the money kept rolling in. By the end of Saturday between us we had bought:

82 litres water
21 kg cat food
57 kg dog food
15 litres bleach
20 litres cat litter
2 enormous bags containing food, beddings, toiletries and children’s clothes

On Sunday morning I headed over to Iceland Puerto Banus (one of the drop off points) to deliver some of our supplies. Just as I was about to go in I received a phone call from Lisa Sadleir, one of the coordinators of SOS Andalucia who was looking for someone to go to Iceland in Puerto Banus (bizarrely) to see if they needed help. So many kind people were donating bags of clothes, baby equipment, food and water – I was so impressed! That was, until I went to Iceland in Mijas where the entire pavement outside the shop was filled with the donations that had been collected that morning! What a demonstration of incredible community spirit and compassion. And that was before the horse lorry from Frigliana arrived with goodies collected from the towns East of Malaga – now that was entirely overwhelming.

Horsebox driven from Frigliana full of supplies for those in need.

I drove back from Mijas along the toll road. It was very emotional seeing the destruction particularly between the Calahonda toll and Marbella – huge swathes of land completely destroyed with remarkably clean looking apartment buildings stranded in the middle. It’s an extraordinary sight – not one that I want to see repeated.

As I was still receiving messages with financial pledges, I decided to donate €100 to the animal rescue centre that had to evacuate on the Thursday night as they needed to buy a new bowser to hold drinking water for the animals. By this time I had received €400 in total and so I bought a further €100 worth of rice, beans and juice drinks for the Red Cross to distribute amongst families now homeless from the fire. Very sobering.

By Monday a few unexpected further pledges and donations had been received including one slipped under my front door: thank you – you know who you are! The total pledged now amounts to a staggering €600!

Today I have sent a donation of €100 to the Andalucian Rescue Centre for Horses who are offering temporary stabling or field turn out to owners of stables affected by the recent terrible fires. They will assist with shelter and care for burned or injured animals in their stables in Alhaurin El Grande and will visit those with animals in need to ascertain how they can best help, whether it be through providing food or veterinary treatment. I started this whole thing because of the animals and so it seemed only fitting to end it by helping them.

The remaining €100 of our €600 pledged is arriving from the UK in dribs and drabs as people head back after the summer so unless anyone has a different idea, I will collect this in and transfer it to the special Red Cross bank account which has been set up to assist those people who have lost their homes and / or possessions in the fire.

I find it incredible that a simple message led to a collection worth €600. How amazing is that! Thank you so much for your kindness, generosity, compassion and sheer wonderfulness in coming together when other people, and animals, needed your help.

A Little Help From My Friends – The Beatles

“What do I do when my love is away.
(Does it worry you to be alone)
How do I feel by the end of the day
(Are you sad because you’re on your own)
No I get by with a little help from my friends,
Oh I get by with a little help from my friends.”

(Rob was away the weekend of this mad frenzy to help people and animals so this seemed fitting!)