Despite the lockdown the Cancer Support Group Mallorca (CSG) has managed to stay in action throughout. The CSG is a registered association that was formed to help the expat community in Majorca. Their aim is to help patients, carers and anybody who has been affected by cancer. Their goals are to help in reducing stress, increasing an individual’s sense of control over their own life, improving self-esteem, reducing loneliness and providing practical help. One of the crucial things that the group does is fill in the language gap between someone who can’t speak great Spanish, and their medical team. I spoke to Rebecca Upton, the coordinator for the group about how they had been managing over the last couple of months.
How has it been? “All of our drop in centres and regular classes have had to close but we have adapted and are offering more online telephone and online assistance for our members.”
How have your members been faring? “Their main feeling is of worry, a lot of them have ongoing hospital visits and were quite concerned about being exposed to the virus. But I’ve got to say the medical system has been amazing. The hospitals have been really great and called people where they can rather than expose people to risk. We have been helping people as much as we can by supporting them in appointments with translations if they have needed it. They have rung us and then put their phone on speaker and we have helped them to understand or communicate with the doctors as needed. Some of the members continue to need operations, chemotherapy and radiation treatment but obviously they have had to go on on their own which has been really hard for them. The hospitals have made it as efficient as they can and they have been discharged as soon as possible. Some of our members have been self isolating even from their families which has been really hard for them as well, but they are at a high risk of contracting the illness so they have had to do this”.
Have you had any new members during this time? “Yes, we have had some new people join us who need our support. I would say in total we have been supporting about 25 active members during the quarantine”.
What kind of thing have they needed? “Apart from translations as needed, we have also been helping with coordinating the members getting their medication and protective masks if they have needed those. I have been helping with making and changing appointments as needed. It is very individual. Some we have been helping on a daily basis and others with just the occasional phone call.”
Tell me about the phone calls? “Aside from the ongoing counselling which Krista Hyer (the founder of the group and a professional counsellor) offers, we wanted something less official which could act as a support for our members so we have introduced a phone line system for anyone who wants it. We have a bank of volunteers and we have matched them up with members who want to have that contact and they simply call them and chat. It is keeping people company and cheering them up as well. It has been a real help to some I know. Because we have not necessarily been able to visit people, especially when they are in hospital, the phone has been the next best thing. Some people want to talk daily, it is up to them.”
Were you able to move around during the lockdown? “We were very fortunate to be recognised as essential to the support of citizens by the Balearic government. This has been very important to us as we were able to legitimately move around and assist where needed, and it has meant we are more on the radar of the Spanish system as well. They have been very active in giving us information and it feels very good to have that support.”
What else has changed since lockdown? “Originally we were going to run a volunteer training day on March 17th but it got cancelled because of the quarantine, so we moved it online. Krista’s grandson helped to make a training video which we sent to everyone. They had to watch it and then answer a questionnaire to show they understood the training. It covers things like why they have to be trained, how to comply with Spanish law, the different tasks that they might have to do, and their rights and obligations. Every month we send through new training materials, last month we covered hand hygiene for example and this month we sent information about how to listen more effectively to people. We will definitely keep doing this after the quarantine is over”.
So you have actually picked up volunteers during this time? “Yes, people have some time on their hands right now so we have benefitted from that. But we are still looking and recruiting for more volunteers.We will need people to assist at our drop in centres at Son Espases and Son Llatzer hospitals. We are also hoping to expand to Inca and Manacor hospitals as well, and that takes a lot of people to do that. The drop in centre idea is just to have a presence in the hospital, to be able to give out information about what we can do and help with, to be there with caps for people who have lost their hair and our “Knitted Knockers” as well as leaflets and other things which they can have to pass the time whilst they are in hospital. It also helps the hospital staff to get to know us. Our volunteers don’t have to be bilingual to help so don’t let the worry about not speaking good enough Spanish get in the way of helping out. If people want to do specific tasks such as helping out at home, or in some other way then they need more training and support, but being available to help with either a drop in centre or on a fundraising stall is a really big boost for us as well”.
Here are a few ways that volunteers can help the Cancer Support Group in Majorca.
Reception: being a point of contact at their drop in centres. Administration: helping with the running of the charity, graphic design, social media, blog writing, data entry, research, leaflet distribution, shaker distribution and collection. helping with Spanish bureaucracy. Patient help and care: hospital visits, home visits, school runs, pet care, cooking, transportation. Translation: at hospital and doctors visits, with social services, at the town hall etc.Fundraising: help at fairs, event planning. Awareness: public speaking, leaflet distribution campaigns, visiting doctors and hospitals to discuss CSG. Professionals: nursing, counselling, therapists, hairdressers and wig care and makeup artists. There are many other ways to help, they often need help with jobs at their centre, or delivering items to patients, fairs etc. If you have a skill or expertise which you think could help their patients, they would be pleased to hear from you. All their volunteers are insured and must undergo general and/or specific training, depending on the tasks they carry out.
Contact 659 88 74 55 www.cancersupportmallorca.com