(Journalist Lauren Frayer is a frequent contributor to NPR. She files this report from Madrid.)
For decades, the Red Cross has asked Spaniards to donate money to starving children in the Third World. But with Europe's debt crisis, the needy are now right here at home.
The Spanish Red Cross today launched its first-ever fundraising campaign for Spaniards to donate directly to other Spaniards. The aid organization estimates that some 300,000 additional people in Spain are vulnerable to hunger because of the economic crisis.
With one in four Spaniards out of work, the country has Europe's highest jobless rate. More than half of 20-somethings are unemployed. Spain has entered its second recession in three years.
New TV ads debut across Spain today, in a Red Cross campaign entitled "Now More than Ever." One spot shows a worried father rationing an omelette made from a single egg into three portions, to feed himself and his two children. His refrigerator is empty. Then two Red Cross volunteers arrive and the music swells. The smiling family unpacks milk, cooking oil and pasta from donation parcels emblazoned with the Red Cross logo.
"More and more people than you imagine need help in our country," say words scrolling across the screen. The Red Cross already helps about 2 million people in Spain, but another 300,000 are now needy because of the economic crisis, it said.
The Spanish Red Cross, or Cruz Roja, hopes to raise about $39 million over the next two years, to assist victims of hunger in Spain. More than 80 percent of those who receive Red Cross aid live below the poverty line, with family incomes of less than $800 a month, the group said. More than 60 percent of them are unemployed.
Today's new fundraising campaign coincides with the group's annual collection day. Hundreds of Red Cross volunteers have fanned out along sidewalks in the Spanish capital and other cities.