Françoise Rajewski isn’t your typical ‘expat’ charity president. For a start, at just 40, she is still very much of working age, and she has a number of piercings.
Originally from France, Françoise has lived the UK, Ireland, Poland and Belgium, where she met her Belgian husband. The couple moved to Jaén in 2007, largely due to the fact that her husband’s second language is Spanish.
They are both translators by profession and Françoise speaks fluent English and Spanish. She studied these at university along with Polish and says she simply loves words and languages.
Being able to communicate easily in a number of languages, says Françoise, is key to her new position with Acompalia, a Granada-based charitable organisation offering support to terminally ill patients and their families in the province. It gets its name from a fusion of the words ‘accompany’ and ‘palliative’.
Fundraising has always been an important part of the new president’s life and she says that she was involved in her first charity work at the age of nine. Later, as an au pair in the UK she helped with the Marie Curie cancer organisation and wherever she has lived she has always done her bit.
Françoise knows she has a challenge ahead of her with fundraising for palliative care. “Cancer sells,” she says. “It is relatively easy to raise money for cancer charities, but there are two things you don’t talk about in Spain and they are Franco and death.”
However, in the short space of time that the fundraiser has been in the post, she seems to have got an awful lot of things moving. Last Friday the Golf in Nerja Society, GINS, organised a charity golf day at Los Moriscos golf club in Motril, which was supported by local rum distillers, Ron Montero.
There are also big plans for summer and Acompalia is one of Costa Women’s chosen charities for this year. There will be a summer party hosted by the women’s group in July as well as a concert in Almuñécar in August and a gala dinner later on in the year.
Françoise is keen to stress that there is nothing fun and nothing to sell when it comes to palliative care, but her view is that Acompalia wants to ensure that patients have “life until the end, not the end of life”. She adds, “Along with making sure that foreign patients that don’t speak Spanish get the translation and interpretation help they need, we also try to grant them their wishes - if they fancy a glass of red wine, or whatever it is, I think they should have it.”
Acompalia is a truly multinational organisation, with foreign and Spanish volunteers on board as well as a local English-speaking Spanish lawyer and vice-president. While most patients and families are non-Spanish, Françoise says that more Spanish people are using the services. “There isn’t much funding for palliative care in Spain and it’s badly needed. The Spanish family structure isn’t what it used to be with children moving away from their parents to work and pressures of modern life.”
With a number of languages up her sleeve, a get-on-and-do-things attitude and having seen people close to her touched by cancer and also in need of care, the new president of Acompalia is in a good position to get the charity really rolling. There are bigger future plans for a hospice and paediatric facility too. “Sadly death doesn’t just touch adults,” she says. But to begin with Françoise hopes to combine her talents, passions and “incredible and dedicated” volunteers to raise awareness and of course funds, for a charity which looks like it is going from strength to strength.