Red Cross sees young volunteer numbers triple during pandemic
Over 1,200 people under the age of 25 have joined the organization since March
Over 1,200 people under the age of 25 have joined the organization since March
Aged between 17 and 30, the helpers in the upcoming sporting event are from 25 countries
The Tour of Catalonia, known as ‘La Volta’, was born in 1911 and is the 3rd oldest cycling competition in the world, just behind the Tour de France and the Giro d’Italia. Its Director, Rubèn Peris, is proud of the event and says that “‘La Volta’ is something bigger than a race” and is an ambassador for showing Catalonia to the rest of the world, included in the UCI World Tour calendar. From the 23rd to the 29th of March, this competition will hold its 95th edition with the presence of some of the best riders in the world such as Chris Froome, Joaquim ‘Purito’ Rodríguez and Alberto Contador. The CNA interviewed Peris a few days before the start of the race, which "has reached an extremely high level and which is always co-ordinated by amateurs", showing "how strong the associations’ network in Catalonia is".
The 2015 Formula 1 World Championship is about to begin and the teams finalised their preparations at the Circuit de Catalunya. 20 racers will be in the spotlight in two weeks’ time for the start of the season, but Formula 1 is not just about the drivers themselves. Apart from the household names of Fernando Alonso, Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton, there is a little known world that every two weeks travels from one side of the world to the other. On the one hand, there are the people who work around the F1 team itself such as the press officers, who manage communication between the different parts of the team and also with the media. On the other, all the circuits mobilise an army of volunteers who sacrifice their day job to be "marshals" at the circuit to take care of the drivers’ safety.
Catalan supermarkets and charities are working together to fight against the 1.18 million tonnes of food wasted each year in Catalonia. With 1.3 billion tonnes of food wasted each year worldwide, the issue of excess food is becoming increasingly important. Of the global figures, 89 million tonnes come from the EU, while 8 million come from Spain, making it the 7th highest in Europe. Of Catalonia’s share, the equivalent of 34.9 kg is wasted per person on an annual basis. One approach in reducing this figure is being undertaken by supermarkets, which are responsible for 16% of total excess food in Catalonia, equivalent to 41,600 tonnes of food a year. Approaches vary from locking bins to reducing prices, and relabeling food products. Moreover, Catalan charity Banc dels Aliments has been active in the campaign against wasting food, running a six-year long annual event of redistributing donated food.
Early on Friday morning, the "Gran Recapte" ("The Great Collection") - a campaign to collect food donations in order to redistribute it to people in need – began across Catalonia, and will be underway until late on Saturday evening. Organised by Catalonia’s main food bank, El Banc dels Aliments, it collects donations of non-perishable food products such as milk, flour, oil, beans and pasta from organisations and individuals, with the cooperation of many markets and supermarkets. With the help of 20,000 volunteers, this food will then be shared out among up to 250,000 people in the coming weeks. The new President of the Food Bank, Eduard Arruga, believes this year people are more aware of the campaign than ever. In Barcelona, it began at 9.30am and, in the neighbourhood Sants, attendance was already high.
In addition, the Catalan President, Artur Mas, responded to the Public Prosecutor Office's warnings by stating that he is the person responsible for opening the polling stations. Besides, three judges from Barcelona, Badalona and Tarragona decided to reject the petitions of taking away the participatory process' ballot boxes for "not being proportional". On November 9, in the middle of the participatory process, there were still some judicial actions on-going that were trying to stop Catalans from voting. The first group of actions were those carried out by the Public Prosecutor Office – whose head is directly appointed by the Spanish Government, which threatened to identify volunteers and which has already obtained a detailed list of voting centres. The second group were the complaints filed by Spanish nationalist parties and some private citizens. Populist UPyD and extreme-right parties PxC and Falange filed complaints on Saturday, asking for the ballot boxes to be removed.
The citizen participation process on independence has kicked off at 9am on November 9 despite the temporary suspension of the Constitutional Court. Finally, the 1,317 voting centres hosting 6,695 polling stations have opened their doors without major incidents, as has been confirmed by the Catalan Government. Long queues of voters were waiting to cast their ballot in a festive atmosphere from early morning. The vote is being run by 40,930 volunteers, but the Catalan Executive is actively behind the process. During the day it will offer turnout figures and it should announce the results on Monday. The ballot boxes are located in high-schools run by the Catalan Government or in municipal centres in small towns and villages. A delegation of international observers is monitoring the process. Several Spanish nationalist parties and organisations have filed judicial complaints asking for the vote to be stopped and members of the Catalan Government to be arrested. In addition, the Public Prosecutor Office – obeying the Spanish Government –asked the Catalan Police to identify the volunteers opening the voting centres, but the Catalan Government refused to do so as they had authorised volunteers to access public venues.
Carme Forcadell, President of the civil society organisation Catalan National Assembly (ANC), stated that if citizens are able to cast their vote on November 9, the participatory process will already be "a success". However, she warned that "nobody can guarantee we will be able to vote on November 9 because the Spanish State will use all the resources against the freedom of expression" of the Catalan people. In fact, she pointed out that there have already been "threats" sent by the Spanish Government to members of the Catalan Executive, volunteers and high-school directors. "It's very important that the world knows our situation", she highlighted. Nevertheless, she hoped that Catalans will be finally able to vote on Sunday. "The 9th of November is very important [as] it is one step forward towards independence", she emphasised. However, a clear democratic mandate will come from early Catalan Parliament elections.
The Constitutional Court rejects calling an urgent meeting to debate the appeal that the Catalan Government filed on Friday against the suspension of Sunday's participatory process, in which it asked the Court for further clarifications about the suspension's exact scope. A month ago, the Court organised an urgent and non-scheduled meeting that took place only 5 hours after the Spanish Government filed its appeal against November 9's consultation vote. However, on this occasion, when the vote is supposed to take place in less than 48 hours and not in 5 weeks time, the Court will not organise an urgent and non-scheduled meeting. In fact, the Court will follow its previously agreed calendar and will meet in 2 weeks time.
The Spanish Government's Delegate in Catalonia, María de los Llanos de Luna, sent letters on Thursday to the directors of high-schools throughout Catalonia reminding them that the Constitutional Court had temporarily suspended November 9's participatory process. Furthermore she added that "neither agreements nor actions going against the Court's decision" should be carried out. De Luna explained that "allowing the use of education centres to carry out actions related to the suspended consultation vote" might go against the Court's decision. In addition, she sent similar letters to all the mayors, chairmen of supra-municipal bodies, main municipal officers and Catalan Ministers related to the participation process' organisation. Furthermore, on Friday, the Spanish Deputy Prime Minister, Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría, asked the Catalan President, Artur Mas, "not to force" civil servants, mayors and citizens to "disobey the law".
The National Alliance for Self-Determination, which groups more than 3,000 civil society organisations and public institutions, met on Friday and gave its support to holding the participatory process on Sunday despite the temporary suspension by the Constitutional Court. In addition, the Catalan Government committed itself to continuing to be behind the participatory process, after several people had speculated during the last few days that it would transfer the vote's organisation to civil society organisations. The Catalan Government has guaranteed that its venues (mainly high-schools) will be opened on Sunday and will host ballot boxes. In addition, it will back town halls and volunteers if there is any judicial problem. However, the actual execution of the voting process will be entirely run by volunteers. In addition, the National Alliance and the more than 3,000 organisations that are part of it will be also backing Sunday's participatory process and will share the responsibility.
The President of the Catalan Government, Artur Mas, reacted on Friday evening to the Spanish Executive's appeal against November 9's alternative consultation vote on independence. Mas guaranteed that the vote will take place because "it cannot be stopped" as it is run by volunteers. In addition, he has accused the Spanish Government of "abuse of power and abuse of legal process", since "it is using the Constitutional Court to solve its problems" and is using "the appeal to hide its lack of political capacity". Furthermore, he emphasised that the Spanish Executive had at first been "downplaying" and "mocking about" the alternative vote, but "two weeks later" it considers it to be a great threat to democracy and it appeals against it. By doing this, the Spanish Government "has crossed the line of becoming ridiculous", he added.