The Spanish cancer association AECC (Asociación Española Contra el Cancer) has launched a new initiative to extend its services to the international community on the Costa del Sol.
On Tuesday the town hall offices in La Cala de Mijas hosted the launch of the AECC Pink Ladies, a group of volunteers of different nationalities who will help convey the work and help provided by the association to residents on the Costa del Sol who may not speak Spanish.
The Pink Ladies (and Pink Panthers - the gentlemen) speak a variety of languages and are trained to carry out the already multiple services that the AECC offers to cancer patients and their families.
The new cancer support group has been set up by the Fuengirola and Mijas branch of the AECC, whose president, Paula Casas Biedma, attended Tuesday's launch, along with the Malaga provincial chairman of the association, Pedro González.
They were accompanied by the Mijas councillor for Foreign Residents, Roy Pérez, the head of the Foreigners Department, Anette Skou and Health councillor María Carmen González, along with their staff and the new volunteers.
Having only just got off the ground, the new group is still looking for volunteers, who speak English, Scandinavian languages, French, German, Arabic or Russian, as well as any other languages spoken by international residents on the Costa del Sol. They stress there is no requirement to speak Spanish; the group is formed by foreigners to help foreigners.
"Our volunteers carry out the type of work that they enjoy doing," said Paula Casas. "What are you good at? What do you enjoy doing? Well that's the type of work you can carry out at our association," she added, stressing that the association is like "one big family".
The Pink Ladies are also looking for "testimonial volunteers", people who have been through cancer themselves. A period of training is provided to enable these survivors to offer a positive view of their experience to others who are in the initial stages of the same cancer, serving as an example, and offering and emotional support, all in the patient's own language.
The Pink Ladies are also setting up a home help group. These volunteers visit the sick person and their family in their homes and do whatever jobs are necessary while they are there, as well as providing company. Volunteers are also required to help transport patients to and from hospital for appointments.
Finding a job that suits a volunteer doesn't stop there. The new group is keen to accommodate people with a variety of skills who can organise charity events, help with paperwork, or work in the AECC charity shop.
One of the main reasons for setting up the Pink Ladies in this area is that many foreign residents on the Costa del Sol are not familiar with the association and unaware of the help available.
The volunteers will also be involved therefore in awareness campaigns to help prevent cancer and at the same time raise funds for the association.
"There are a lot of people in need of our services, but it is essential that we have foreign volunteers. It doesn't cost them anything, as we don't make our volunteers become members of the association," explained Paula, who has been a volunteer in the AECC for nearly 30 years.
"It breaks my heart when we are contacted by a foreigner with cancer and all they want is someone to talk to in their mother tongue and we are not able to help," added Paula. "With the Pink Ladies this will change," she said.