NATION-WIDE MAID OF ALL WORK
By Leonard J. Schweitzer
THE Auxilio Social, with headquarters in Madrid and branches in every province, village and hamlet, is the Spanish answer to the Christian principle that it is the duty of the fortunate to alleviate the burdens of the unfortunate: that the haves are tinder an obligation to share with the have-trots.
Auxilio Social—" Social Help runs day nurseries for the children of working mothers. serves good meals to poor children, offers care and advice to expectant mothers, pays the rent and domestic bills for those who cannot do so themselves, teaches young women the social graces and how to be good housewives and mothers, and sends volunteer nurses to the sick. In short, Auxilio Social is Spain's volunteer maid-of-all work.
This is one of those peculiar combinations of Government and private initiative which seems to function so well in Spain.
In theory it is part of the Falange but has a considerable amount of autonomy.
Actually it is run by a host of women volunteers from all sections of society. Most of the workers are unpaid. The annual budget of more than 200,000,000 pesetas (about £7,000,000) is principally used for aid for the needy. Not quite two per cent. goes for administrative expenses.
For all women
AUXILIO Social had a modest
beginning in 1936, just after the Civil War broke out. Several public-spirited women in Valladolid undertook at that time to serve meals to children and adults who were impoverished by the fighting.
As the need became greater, more food distribution centres were opened as well as homes for orphaned children.
Up to 1940 it was purely a private endeavour; after that year the movement was taken tinder oflicial auspices.
All Spanish women from 18 to 35 are expected to devote six months to work in the organisation. There is no compulsion and exceptions arc readily made for those who cannot find the time because they are housewives and mothers.
The six months' service is, however, a prerequisite for many Civil Service jobs and even for certain types of private employment. As a result, few Spanish women omit their term of service.
The first three months of service are educational. Home economics, dressmaking, care of children and similar subjects are taught. The second half of the term entails work in the field at the Auxilio's soup-kitchens, child welfare agencies, clinics, hospitals, and other services.
Aid in . action
HERE are some examples of
how Auxilio Social works.
Juan, an agricultural labourer with a family, through no fault of his own has not been working regularly. With eight mouths to feed and a home to maintain he has no easy task.
He goes to the local Auxilio office and explains his position. The Auxilio investigates with little or no red tape—learns that Juan is telling the truth, and then begins to help.
First, arrangements are made for free rent and domestic supplies for the family. This is done by raising the rents of neighbouring families to compensate the landlord for the loss of Juan's payments.
At first sight this may seem strange, but it is the principle on which Spanish welfare agencies work. We are all our brother's keeper, they seem to say. If that is so, why should not the fortunate go a little bit out of their way to bolster the unfortunate 'I Then the Auxilio provides directly to Juan and his family the necessities of life: food, household needs, medicine. Very little cash is handed over. Juan's wife is about to have another child. She receives prenatal care free at the nearest Auxilio clinic. A doctor and nurse are provided for her confinement, and after her baby is born, mother and child are provided with special foods, vitamins, a layette, and other necessities.
Meanwhile other agencies of the Auxilio Social are trying to arrange for a job for Juan. Whether they get it for him immediately or not, they will take care of his family until such time as it has found its own position in the world again.
Among the lesser but still very helpful tasks undertaken by the organisation is help for travellers in distress, especially women and children.
Auxilio workers, if you visit Spain, will be glad to show you how to exchange your money for pesetas, make arrangements for your railway journeys and, in general, smooth the way for you. The organisation is staffed almost entirely by women, a new development in Spanish affairs.
NOWADAYS, too—for the first
time in the history of Spain— the majority of the primary school-age youngsters are actually in the classroom. Ministry of Education figures indicate that there are a few under 4,500,000 of then attending classes.
Under the Republic, at the time of its best showing, there were about 4,325,000 eligible youngsters and less than half of this smaller total were in school, although theoretically, primary education was compulsory and school facilities were supposedly provided for everyone.
As more than 99 per cent. of the Spanish people are Catholic, the public and private schools teach the principles of Christianity along lines approved by the Church as a regular part of the daily curriculum.
Under the Republic, at the height of its powers, the unreached goal was one school for every 500 inhabitants. Now the goal is one for every 250 inhabitants, and the goal is in sight.
Today there are almost 57,000 primary school teachers in Spain, most of them graduates of a special three-year training course for teachers equivalent to that supplied by the State normal schools in the United States. Under the Republic there were never more than 44,000 teachers, mostly with erratic and insufficient education.
One of the big needs after the Civil War, was the provision of more schools, to replace those destroyed in the fighting and to offer facilities for extra pupils.
Again, the goal has not yet been reached, but since 1940 more than 7,800 school buildings have been constructed.
T 0 meet the needs for technically-trained persons in in
dustry and commerce, a vast programme of technical school construction has been initiated.
Under the Republic this important field of education, officials say, was so neglected that for all normal purposes Spain had no means of sending trained and expert young workers into her industries and science laboratories.
The present set-up includes trade and technical schools for young men and trade and commercial schools for young women.
The Auxilio Social itself runs a six-month training course for young women. Part of the course is spent in teaching the A.B.C. to those who have not had a chance to benefit by school training previously.
While the present Spanish school system is by no means perfect, it is undoubtedly a considerable step ahead of anything that Spain previously had.
Best of all, education officials emphasise, the State is constantly seeking to improve and expand the system and will not be content until every Spaniard has an opportunity to receive as good a compulsory primary and high school education as possible and the further opportunity to partake of as much higher education as he wants and can absorb.