—What did your family think when you told you that you were going to leave your home to an NGO?
—My mother also included in her will that a part of her estate go to two NGOs. As a son, I was affected by her decision, but she didn’t bother me in the least. I even celebrated it.
Professor Ramiro Ribeiro, 54, dedicates himself to both the Humanities and humanitarian causes. This student of grammar and literary theory has written in his will that his 70 m² home in the Retiro district (Madrid) pass into the hands of UNHCR when he dies: “When my father died in 2016, I realized that that life had an end”, recalls this single man without children. Soon he went to the notary, paid a fee of about 50 euros and signed his wish. He became a joint testator. “It’s a nice way to leave the world,” says this graduate in Telecommunications Technical Engineering, who found his vocation as a teacher in 2000 after three years at the service of a Japanese multinational. “I wanted to make up for the injustice of having to be born in a country like Sudan or Syria, where you could lose your home,” adds this passionate reader, who lives surrounded by books in his apartment located one kilometer from the Puerta de Alcala.
Wills, private and confidential, can be modified as many times as you want. It is only accepted when the testator dies. Ribeiro amended his a year ago to include his brother “in case he needs help,” although he acknowledges that “the bulk, my house, is for UNHCR.”
Born in Murcia but settled in the capital since 1987, since university days, he has worked as a professor of Language and Literature in various institutes in the Community of Madrid. “I don’t think my decision to leave my home to UNHCR is conditioned by the number of migrant students I teach,” he says a few hours before accompanying them to the Prado Museum on a school visit. “I forget that they are. I don’t make distinctions”, adds the professor. “We cannot forget the Spanish Republicans who went into exile in Argentina or Mexico,” says the also graduate in Journalism who, since 2005, now with a stable salary and civil servant status, allocates monthly money to humanitarian causes.
A kind of manifesto in life
Alhelí Quintanilla is responsible for a study of inheritances and legacies published by the Haztestamentosolidario.org platform, which collects data from 22 non-profit organizations in Spain, including Acnur. The amount donated in this way has gone from 23.3 million euros in 2020 to 33.8 million euros in 2021. The campaign coordinator highlights not only the money or goods donated, but also the message that is sent, the fact that a testator leaves his will in writing. “It is a way of telling the world who you have been, of reflecting your values, of manifesting what has mattered to you in life,” says Quintanilla, who affirms that writing a will is not an impulsive act. “You have to mature it. You are not going to die tomorrow and you are not responding to an emergency, ”she points out. “It is about prolonging that solidarity that you have exercised in life,” adds the coordinator of the study.
Sandra Flórez, 50, is also a joint testator. This woman from Lima moved to Spain in 1991, when she was 19 years old. Since then she has always lived in the Levant. She now resides between Valencia and Almedíjar, a town in Castellón with 269 inhabitants (INE, 2022). “After the death of my father due to Parkinson’s, I considered my own death,” says Flórez, who went to the notary under his house and signed a will in which he donated 3% of any monetary assets he had in the bank to UNHCR. “I come from Peru. I have a social sensitivity due to the great differences that exist in my country”, affirms this divorced woman, without children and with nephews.
With a degree in Sociology, Flórez speaks German, French and English, as well as Spanish and Valencian. Like Ribeiro, she has collaborated with NGOs since she was young. After working in logistics companies for a long time, she has managed to embark on a social project. “Money is something that comes and goes, it doesn’t worry me. I have always been supportive ”, she defines herself. Her effort to eat well led her to become interested in agriculture and from there to the development of rural areas such as Almedíjar. They have converted a hostel in the area into a socio-cultural center that acts as a residence for artists, a meeting place and a teaching space in which to teach craft workshops and traditional trades. Thus fills her life. “To my sensitivity for the mourning processes that migrants go through is added my concern for old age, childhood, depopulation…”, explains Flórez, who gives a room in his house in Valencia to a partner in exchange for a space in this house in Almedíjar.
There is more talk of death
Once the charitable donors die, the wills are accepted and opened, and the assets pass into the hands of the corresponding NGO, which sells them to obtain resources with which to finance their causes. Carmen Conejo is the person in charge of the Solidarity Will of the Spanish Acnur Committee. “The fear of talking about death is losing. The profile of the testator has been rejuvenating. Those who have offspring are growing, ”she says. By law, in Spain one third of the inheritance corresponds to the legitimate heirs, that is, the widow or widower, the children and descendants or the parents and ascendants. It is the freely available third that joint testators usually allocate to NGOs −there are testators who leave it in full and others in part−. The remaining third is known as the improvement of the legitimate heirs.
On May 10, Ribeiro and a hundred guests attended the presentation of the documentary Continuará… solidarias historias sin punto final, which shows the journey undertaken by two testators in solidarity with UNHCR to two refugee camps in Rwanda, in the one lived by people who were forced to flee their homes, and who mostly come from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The aim was to show partners and donors the projects carried out by UNHCR in the field with the resources obtained from solidarity wills. Ribeiro declined the invitation to join the trip because he suffers from type I diabetes, which forces him to lead a leisurely life.
—What happens if he falls in love and shares his life with that person?
—If I fall in love with someone, they will have similar ideas to mine and they will understand my decision. In an exceptional situation, I can leave you a part as I did with my brother. But my address will go to Acnur.