Joan Hunt. / SUR

Internationally better

Rachel Haynes
RACHEL HAYNES

There's no better name than Joan Hunt's to represent the contribution of a foreign resident to their local community. The determination of this English woman to find a way of providing palliative care to patients in the final phase of a terminal illness, and to turn that into the foundation Cudeca is today, is an achievement difficult to match.

However, thanks to Cudeca and the provincial Diputación, Joan's example is now being used to highlight the achievements of other members of the international community on the Costa del Sol and indeed throughout the province, in the form of the Premios Joan Hunt that were awarded for the first time on Wednesday evening.

Before even naming names, the awards in themselves have served to make a wider audience aware of the incredible international community in this area. In a place where foreign residents are often confused with tourists, it's always worth reminding people that 300,000 of their fellow residents in Malaga province were actually born in another country.

And only once that figure has sunk in can we start pointing out that many of those 300,000 have contributed a great deal to improving their local community.

Most of the recipients of the awards on Wednesday pointed out that their achievements were "humble" compared with Joan's. That may be so, but the more international names that appear on the "achievers board" in the mindset of the general public the better.

The province of Malaga is a melting pot of nationalities, of languages, of different ways of thinking, of different ways of doing business, of reaching out to help others. And now these awards will hopefully demonstrate how all this variety, all these different ways of looking at a situation, can improve society as a whole.

Back in the early nineties Joan would have been dismissed as a 'guiri' whose Spanish was far from perfect, trying to suggest that things be done in a way that was completely alien to local people. Adding life to the remaining days of terminally ill patients through palliative care, and paying for it all through the sale of second-hand clothes in a shop manned by volunteers, may well have seemed an impossible, even ridiculous, idea. "We don't do things like that here," she must have heard on more than one occasion.

But Joan managed to find support for her project and Cudeca was founded and prospered. A real example of how looking beyond an awkward foreign accent can reveal a major benefit to the local community. Of course demonstrating a love of local cuisine as Joan did (two of her closest companions in Cudeca pointed that out this week), and showing a captivating smile, always helps.

This week, in Joan's name, Cudeca and the province of Malaga have recognised the contributions of a Cuban pianist; a Finnish company and important employer; a Dutch-run winery; a village community; the British consulate; and of course Dr Yusuf Husied, who has extended Joan's legacy to include a pioneer palliative care training centre, right here on the Costa del Sol.

Oh, and they also wanted to recognise the contribution of this English-language newspaper, which 38 years ago began its journey to deliver news and information to the international community, hopefully making residents better equipped to make their own contribution to their adopted home.