If every cloud does have a silver lining, well there is certainly a silver lining around Pollensa and the port thanks to the charity PollençaCARES. This was set up last May by long-time Austrian resident Martina Singer and seven other local women from various nationalities: Claire Trelford, Dana Bena, Karin v. Pölnitz, Liz Barratt-Brown, Magdalena Seguí Cerdà, Mo Henkel and Sally Everist.
Martina, whose background is in the world of fashion, has lived on the island for 22 years. She came to Mallorca by chance on holiday with her former partner’s family and eventually decided to move here and set up a retreat centre, something that was very new to the island at the time.
The retreat prospered and grew into a yoga centre, amongst other things, but then the pandemic hit. “It all happened at the end of the first lockdown back in May. My friends and I quickly realised that this was not going to go away any time fast and that the expatriate community was becoming increasingly worried about how the pandemic was hitting the local community in an area they have come to love over many years. We have all fallen deeply in love with Pollensa and the port and my girlfriends decided that we had to do something to help.
“We started doing some local fundraising for the food bank in the area but shortly realised that, if we were going to do this professionally and properly, we had to register as a proper foundation.
“Needless to say, that involved months of paperwork, but we got it done and were then in a position to really get going. I guess that was around September, when the full impact of the pandemic was really starting to show and with the winter just around the corner. But prior to being formally recognised, we were receiving donations - large and small - from overseas, from second home owners who were unable to come over but desperately wanted to help the local community. It was wonderful to see and clearly demonstrated just how much this part of the island means to so many people in the UK and elsewhere around the world.
“With so many people involved and dependent on the tourism and hostelry industry, the food bank was becoming increasingly important. People were losing their jobs and income, and many were struggling, especially the many immigrants who have moved into the port to work in the tourism industry.
“So, we set about focusing on the food bank and also got involved with helping the local nuns, Las Monjas, who have a charity, and then Hope, a German charity which has its eighth food bank in Pollensa; that opened at the end of January.
“They give us a ‘shopping list’ of produce they need, numbers of packs of cheese, loaves of bread, whatever, and we go off, raise the funds and return with the products they need the most. We also run a butane gas return help service - literally anything we can to help make people’s lives easier.
“We’ve also had the great support of an excellent German vegan restaurant in the port, Bellaverde. They spent much of the winter cooking great healthy meals every Sunday for those who were in need of a hot wholesome meal, but now they have stopped temporarily as they intend to open for the season.
“So the girls and I have been helping them get ready to reopen by sorting out the garden, redecorating, anything we can to pay them back for the great support they have provided us and the local community.
“One thing we have noticed is that, before the pandemic, lots of expatriates lived in their own bubbles. But they’ve been extremely quick to come out and help and engage with the local community like never before, and it’s really helped to create a huge sense of collective community and solidarity like we’ve never seen before. I know it’s going to last.
“We’ve all made new friends and relationships and got to understand each other a bit more, so this is a major plus which has come out of the pandemic; it has not all been doom and gloom. But there is still a lot of work to do, perhaps even more so, looking at the fallout from the pandemic.
“Apart from people struggling to make it to the end of the month and put food on the table, the extent of the damage which has been inflicted on people’s emotional state of mind and mental health is going to take years to repair and overcome.
“And we’re not just talking about adults, we’re also looking to help kids and teenagers. We have got together with a psychologist and an expert in mindfulness and, restrictions permitting, will be holding workshops for all age groups. We need to restore and improve people's state of mind and empowerment.
“We also have a series of workshops planned for young people so they can meet and listen to professionals talk about their jobs to help young people make a decision about where they want to go with their lives, which career path they may like to follow. We have lawyers and doctors on board, for example, plus we are planning visits to a tailor’s and a carpenter’s to open up young people’s minds to what is out there and what life is going to be like after the pandemic. We want to show them what is on the horizon, what the job market looks like.
“And we’ve been contacted by the local council. They have asked us to help raise funds to purchase laptops for families who can’t afford them for their children. Laptops have become a vital tool in schools and education and, without them, so many will miss out and suffer. So, we’ve agreed to help the local council, but money raised for that will be separate to that going to the food banks. We’ve already received some good donations and we think we’re looking at needing to purchase around 50 laptops.
“There is a wonderful association called Fábrica de Valientes (Factory of the Brave) here on the island, which was set up to help young people and further their experiences and prospects. We’ve teamed up with them and that’s very exciting. But one thing is blatantly clear - this is far from over.
“Apart from the emotional fallout from the pandemic to date, people have been locked away and isolated for such a long time. It’s been a terrible experience for everyone on all levels, one which no one has ever had to go through. I know people are still hesitant about going out and especially mingling in large crowds, like shopping centres. It’s even happened to me at times. It’s going to take time to feel comfortable, normal again as we slowly emerge from the pandemic with the hope that things will get better and that we will not be thrown back into a lockdown again.
“There are so many variables which we can’t control and while, yes, things are starting to open for what we all hope will be something of a tourist season, this winter is going to be another tough one. For those who have had to live on minimum wages or social security for the best part of a year, what income they can enjoy over the next few months is not going to go too far with regard to recuperating either lost revenue or savings. So we’re braced for another hard long winter.
“No one expected this to bring the whole world to its knees and it’s going to take time for all of us to get back on our feet. So many need help now and will continue to need help well into next year.
“I guess living here in Mallorca has been a blessing - the landscape, the nature, the sea, the light, the sunshine - but for many this has not been enough. Just being isolated, shut away with no natural light is seriously damaging for one’s mental health, and for those who have been unable to exercise or get out, even worse.
“The whole thing has certainly made the world a smaller place, broken down many social boundaries and brought communities closer together - as we have seen here in Pollensa. Before, many people were living parallel lives, but now we’re all working as one. It’s been a real eye-opener, a moving experience.
“We’re all in this for the long haul, and once we’ve got over the summer, as we get closer to November, December and Christmas, it’s going to start looking rather gloomy for many again. We all need to be there for those who are going to be facing a struggle and a battle to survive and live a respectable and decent life all over again. Be they adults or children.”
To get involved, visit www.pollensacares.org