Fundación Aladina, a Project with Heart
Director Ishtar Espejo opens up about why she loves her job, and how you can get involved with this Madrid foundation
When it comes to philanthropy, Madrid mom Ishtar Espejo is hardly a novice. After a stint the International Programme on the Elimination of Child Labour (IPEC), this mother of two young boys (Nicolás, 4, and León, 18 months) now spends her days, as director of Fundación Aladina, helping children and teenagers who have been diagnosed with cancer. Here, Espejo talks to Elizabeth Street about Aladina’s mission and why her work, though fulfilling, is not for the faint of heart.
What prompted you to get involved with Fundación Aladina?
My dear friend, Paco Arango, founded Aladina. I felt great admiration for his work and was thrilled when he offered me the chance to become part of this project. It’s wonderful being able to do something meaningful and I love the challenge of helping Aladina grow.
Can you share a personal anecdote about working with Fundación Aladina?
One of the best experiences was my week as a volunteer at Barretstown, an amazing camp founded by Paul Newman for kids with serious illnesses. I was pregnant with my first son and felt pretty sick and tired most of the time. Quite often some of the girls from the group I was in charge of felt sick because they were still undergoing chemotherapy and they’d have to rush to the bathroom, as did I. In spite of it, we rode horses, kayaked, climbed high ropes and danced nonstop and all the time I felt a little bit closer to them. They might have been sick but we had a blast!
Any tips for teaching your sons about other peoples' hardships?
My kids are still very young, but I constantly try to explain to them how lucky we are. We shouldn’t take anything for granted. I’ve also started telling Nicolás, my oldest son, a bit about my job helping sick kids get better.
What do you consider to be Aladina's biggest accomplishment?
I think our biggest “visible” accomplishment is the creation of the new bone marrow transplant center, the MAKTUB, in Madrid’s Hospital Niño Jesús. It will be built this summer, and we are all very excited! But to be honest, we get the best feeling every time we manage to get a kid to smile.
Any particular success stories you’d like to share?
Every child has his or her own story. As does every family. At Aladina, we try to accompany them along the way and every time we manage to make their lives a little better, a little easier, a little happier, that’s success!
What is the easiest way for us to get involved?
If you’d like to help, you can make a donation or become a partner at www.aladina.org/eng/colabora/index.php. This will ensure the continuity of our work—that it will continue to grow and help many more kids every year. A little goes a long way. —Lucie Alig