Friday, 8 September 2023, 13:28
Age Concern Estepona/Manilva, the first branch of the charity to be established in Spain, is celebrating 20 years of helping the English-speaking senior citizens in the area. Over the last two decades it has extended its services and programmes to include help with a variety of financial, welfare and health issues. Although the branch was founded in 1999, the non-profit, volunteer-run charity was officially registered in 2003.
The charity held a 20th anniversary lunch earlier this year, which was attended by 28 volunteers and supporters, but it will organise a larger event to mark the occasion later this year.
The charity has recently expanded the size of its premises by renting another unit next to its second-hand shop in Estepona to use for storage of products for its food bank, and also for the care equipment, which can be hired by “anyone who needs it”.
“We have approximately 120 wheelchairs, and absolutely every conceivable piece of equipment possible to help people with disability issues, including a patient hoist,” Marie-André Greeson explained to SUR in English.
Marie-André, who has held the position of president for the last six years (although she has been a volunteer for 17 years), said that the charity has gone from strength to strength and its “workload has increased incredibly”.
The charity has become recognised in the area as the first port of call for older people who require advice, information and help. It offers weekly social meetings where assistance with welfare, healthcare, finance and attendance and care allowance, among other things, is available.
As with the other branches of Age Concern in Spain, Estepona encourages people from other countries to integrate with the Spanish people. It also seeks to establish relationships with other associations that work for the benefit of older people.
One of these is the British consulate in Malaga, where, in June, the president spent several days at the consulate’s international call centre as a guest of vice-consul Domenic Jackson, which she said was “a really interesting learning experience”.
The branch also offers a special advice line number, which, Marie-André pointed out, is not an emergency number.
“We changed the name from lifeline to advice line because we were getting calls from people who wanted us to phone an ambulance. We could not seem to get people to understand that this is a number for advice and not a number for emergencies,” she said.
Marie-André, who has lived in Spain for 35 years, is also the welfare officer, and this role offers help to people who are looking after loved ones suffering from Alzheimer’s, disabilities or life-threatening diseases.
“Our clients sometimes need support from the UK government, in which case, if they are over the pension age, this is where the attendance allowance kicks in. I fill the forms in for the clients, because I know it is difficult and I’ve been doing this for more than 15 years now,” she explained.
Another part of the charity’s work is the food bank, which is sponsored by a local lady called Jeannine Aslani: it also offers a meals-on-wheels service.
“We have a former head chef in charge of the meals-on-wheels service, and he is absolutely incredible. He makes meals for the client’s individual situation and he creates diets for people with food allergies or conditions that restrict what they can eat,” she said.
Looking back over the last 20 years, Marie-André believes that the charity has been successful in offering the best service possible to its clients, although she claims it is not an easy job as it takes up much of her time, and that of her team of volunteers, who she describes as “dedicated, caring and kind”.
“Looking back in hindsight, I had no idea what I was taking on, but you have to look at it objectively, because much of my workload is my fault. However, we are always in need of volunteers. These must be positive people with a good work ethic, and they must be empathetic and kind. We need to make it a fun place to be, because our clients are our friends,” she concluded.
The Estepona-based Love to Sing Choir has organised a fundraising event at the Civima centre in Manilva in aid of Age Concern Estepona on 6 October. Tickets for the event, which will offer music and dance, along with other fun activities, cost ten euros and are available from the charity’s second-hand shop.
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