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What makes for a good neighbour? 


The stories behind our 2022 Good Neighbour Award winners.  

A language school that does more than teach language, a help line for vulnerable women, and a support group for new arrivals in Spain earned their organisers accolades in the first Good Neighbour Award scheme, launched in 2022 by Age in Spain. 


The scheme is designed to acknowledge the often-unsung heroes who go beyond the call of duty to help in their community. The awards were judged by an international panel and endorsed by the UK Ambassador to Spain, HMA Hugh Elliott.


Outright winner of the award was Lucia Miguel Bores who lives in Carrion de los Condes, in


A woman sitting on a cobbled pavement
Lucia Miguel Bores

the middle of Spain’s meseta.

Lucia was nominated by a grateful neighbour, one of many she has helped settle into their new lives in Spain. Her language school which she started in 2003, Forum Idiomas, has been the gateway to successful integration in the community for countless people arriving in the area. 


Those who came to her door for help with their language schools soon discovered that Lucia would happily help them navigate the challenges of moving to a new country. 


“My first students came from all over, on EU-funded on volunteer programs. and other initiatives run by our local council. I found they needed help with lots of practical things as well as language. It is not so difficult to help people settle in – if you have good people, good food, and good conversation. “


From Irun, and fluent in French and English as well as her mother tongue, and often with English as the communication tool, Lucia made sure that the newcomers found somewhere to live, knew where to go to meet people and make friends, and helped them with any problems they encountered in adjusting to their new lives. Over the years she has done the same for interns working with a local charity, the Fundación San Cebrian, which supports people with severe handicaps. 


Lucia has not stopped at that. Since arriving in Carrion, she has championed this small community of 2,100 people to ensure that it gets its fair share of funding for cultural and sporting activities from regional and state funding and is now even a member of the local town council. 


“People say we’re located in empty Spain. We’re not empty! As a councillor I have a different point of view. We have jobs to offer, we are a friendly place to live. We have a nursery, a primary school and a secondary school.  I love this place and I want to help to make it better.


“People who have lived here all their lives, don’t always understand how good it is. But I encourage young people to go and see the world and they will realise what they have here. The links are very strong. My son, an architect, is back working here.”


“The Good Neighbour Award” is the best idea I’ve heard in a long time – recognising the importance of the concept of ‘neighbourliness’. Being a neighbour means you are part of a community. It’s like a chain. Strong bonds are needed and every part of the chain is important. “ What Lucia was saying was that this award recognises all the strong links in the chain that makes the community of Carrion de los Condes such a great place to live.


Described by her neighbours as a ‘bright light’ in Carrion, Lucia has also attracted warm words from the Alcalde, José Manuel Otero Sanz.


“To me this is a fair recognition of a very special person. Lucia is the ‘type of neighbour’ that all mayors would like to have in their municipalities because of her commitment, participation and collaboration and because she exports the best values of our municipalities abroad. In short, it’s great that she has been chosen because thanks to people like Lucia, our society is better.”


Lucia is also determined to keep her municipality on the map and fight the depopulation trends seen in other remote communities, where infrastructure is, at best, second-rate. Working tirelessly to bring funding to the town for sports and cultural facilities, she has recently been elected to the town council. 




head and shoulders photo of a woman
Kay Rowbottom (Frances)

It was a lockdown initiative that earned Kay Rowbottom – also known by her stage name of Kay Frances – her special commendation as a Good Neighbour. 


During the pandemic, Kay set up a closed group on Facebook to give women a means of online support and information, a non-judgemental safe haven where they could provide mutual support to one another. It was welcomed by Spanish women and English speakers alike. Inspired by a chance encounter with one newly bereaved woman who was feeling very lonely and isolated, Kay hoped that the facebook group would allow women to provide companionship and help each other out. She modestly points out that it is not she who provides the support and help, but the women themselves who help each other. 


Since that small beginning in Mojácar, Kay Frances SturdygirlsRus has grown to include almost 1500 members all over the world.


“Some of our original members were so lonely and isolated, that they only needed people who could say good morning or good night to them through the group. But others were self-employed and 

breadwinners for their families and during lockdown were not able to work. Hearing this, those in our group who could afford to help, provided food for around 24 families throughout lockdown.


“We also managed to help repatriate one member and her family to the UK – after she had been living on flour and water pancakes for eight weeks.”


Reflecting on why people volunteer she says “It’s too easy for anyone to turn their face away and look elsewhere when they come upon someone who’s in trouble. But one day it could be them.”


Kay, who moved from Blackpool with her family in 1999, has also worked to support the Lions charity and in return they have offered support to SturdygirlsRus.  A professional singer, she has also helped organised large scale concerts such as ‘Party in the Park’ to raise funds for the Lions and for Macs cancer support.


It was a member of SturdygirlsRus who nominated Kay for the award.

“Kay speaks fluent Spanish and has been able to speak to the authorities when a member has needed help. She is kind and generous and our community owes much to her. This wonderful group goes from strength to strength and has helped so many lonely people. We can’t thank her enough.’



a man and a woman sitting at a table in a garden
Peter and Pat Love

Pat Love, one half of the ‘Love Team’ in the Loja area of Granada won special commendation for the group she started for English-speaking migrants to Spain. Since moving to the tiny village of Cuesta Blanca more than 20 years ago, Pat Love, one half of the ‘Love Team’ that included her late husband of 45 years, Peter, has worked tirelessly to help other newcomers to the area meet people and settle in. 


The couple’s dream of settling into their own new life after their move from Norfolk received a major set- back when Pat was diagnosed with breast cancer, only eight months after arriving.  While for many people this would have given them reason to focus on their own needs, that was not so for Pat and Peter.


Sitting one day on the terrace of a local hotel after completing her course of chemotherapy and just about able to eat a light lunch, Pat realised that this would be a nice environment in which to bring people together and that was the beginning of ‘Love Team’.


Using their shared background in education, Pat and Peter set up a group for anyone new to the area who wanted to meet others and who could speak some English. The group first met in the hotel where the idea had first occurred, the Hotel Almazara, and ran for the next 19 years during which time it helped countless people settle in.  Pat and Peter co-ordinated help from UK consular services in Malaga and Granada for people who were new and could not yet navigate the system.  


Pat was nominated for the award by grateful group members, seeing any award in part as a memorial to Peter. Since her husband’s death, she has set her sights on reviving an Intercambio group which folded and which can build on the original group she founded.


Pat is modest about her achievement, saying instead that she just does what she’s always done. At home in England, she was a town councillor and her husband Clerk to the Council. She has always become involved in local life. “it’s what you do.”


If Pat has helped others settle in, local people have shown how well Pat and Peter settled in, too. Peter was invited to be a bearer in the village’s ‘Paso’ and was honoured as the oldest village resident. Pat, meanwhile, was made vice-President of the Loja chapter of the AECC (Asociación Española contra el Cancer).


Described by the people nominating her as “model English – modest, unassuming, knowledgeable, competent and unflappable,” Pat said of her special commendation:


“I couldn’t believe it. We just did something that gave us pleasure and helped other people.”


But those nominating her can have the last word:

“We have been privileged to share Pat and Peter’s friendship and local knowledge for the past fifteen years and believe that Team Love’s various works for their community over the years deserve to be recognised – and remembered as embodying all that is meant by being a ‘good neighbour.”




a certificate
Camino Angel certificate

In view of the number of nominations from people who had been helped while walking the Camino de Santiago, judges decided to make a special award to a Camino 'Angel'. This went to J Luis Nuñez and his wife Maria Cecilia Capelo. They were nominated after helping an injured pilgrim who called their taxi service. Luis and his wife stayed with the pilgrim throughout her treatment, brought her home and took her to the station next morning - all without any charge. The grateful pilgrim nominated them for this award, saying 


Luis and Maria exemplify the love and kindness of the Spanish people being there whenever needed, showing true love and friendship to the world.” 


The winners received certificates from Age in Spain and commendation from HMA Hugh Elliott, who said:

 

“These awards are a great recognition of the difference that so many people make to their communities and I was truly delighted to see the number of English speaking-nationals nominating their Spanish neighbours and vice versa. The variety of ways in which people have, generously and compassionately, supported those around them is the very definition of neighbourliness.

 

I am especially pleased to congratulate the winners of the Camino Angel Award, Luis and María. Thirty-nine years ago, I met my very own Camino Angel, Lourdes Arnáiz, who gave me food, lodging and good company as I waited for my bicycle to ride from Burgos to Santiago de Compostela. So I know just how much the kindness of strangers can mean.

 

Congratulations to all of them.”


 

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