‘There’s only so much sitting on the beach you can do’
David Dransfield volunteers with both Age Concern and Age in Spain and has just become a trustee of the latter. He is one of those people for whom volunteering is a way of life.
His almost full-time volunteering with these organisations comes after a long military career and a career in the NHS. David spent 22 years in the RAF, 16 in regular service and six as a full-time reservist while working in clinical governance in the NHS. He served in Northern Ireland, both Gulf wars, the Falklands and Bermuda.
He thinks this is perhaps why so many veterans live abroad. They have never spent much time at ‘home’.
‘I spent the first seventeen years of my life at home and the remaining 48 elsewhere. Military service gives you a bit of wanderlust. You see so many lovely places and do some interesting things. Maybe it makes it hard to settle down.’
David and his wife moved to Spain, near Cadiz, in 2014 after several visits to their daughter who had married a Spanish man and was living there.
He became involved with Age in Spain the following year ‘because there is only so much sitting on the beach you can do’. Through a friend, he first joined Age Concern and heard about Age in Spain and its Residency Helpline. Seeing that people needed help with specific problems such as proof of residency and exchanging driving licences, he was attracted to volunteering on Age in Spain’s helplines.
Collaboration between Age in Spain and Age Concern is a great example of organisations being able to complement each other, says David. ‘Age Concern is well placed to give practical day to day support on the ground – drive people to the supermarket, organise crutches or a wheelchair for an elderly relative visiting family in Spain. Age in Spain can take up the specific issues that are affecting people – entitlement to benefits, passport renewal, driving licence problems, getting access to military charities and signpost people to sources of help. And if you can’t do it yourself, Age in Spain will do it for you.’
David’s own history as an ex-military person has helped establish rapport with many people who have come to Age in Spain for help or support. ‘You have a common language. You can speak in acronyms that mean something to us. It allows us to establish a link, and often people I’ve helped go on to become friends.’
As a caseworker, David is providing support to several people with a military connection. But it’s not only to those who have a service record themselves.
‘Military charities and benevolent funds will help the families of servicemen and women, too. Even when the connection with the ex-service person has been severed.’
One of the cases David is involved with is a woman of 86 living in Tarifa and whose ex-husband had been a Royal Marine. In this case the Royal Navy Benevolent Fund stepped in to help. She had had breast cancer and some mobility issues.
‘Another who lives quite close to me in this part of Spain needed a hearing aid. The charge for that in Spain is 5000€ – a prohibitive cost for this person. Her husband was ex-army and after our approach, the Army Services Charity stepped in to enable her to get it. In this case it was a relief for the whole neighbourhood, as she had been listening to her television at such a high volume that everyone in the street had to listen too!’
‘In another case in another part of Spain altogether, I am helping someone access their army pension that they didn’t know they were entitled to.’
Later this week, David and his wife are are dropping in on yet another beneficiary of Age in Spain who had had difficulties renewing her passport. Above and beyond the call of duty?
‘I get a real buzz from what I do and many of the people I encounter become friends.’
‘I’m only doing what my mum would have expected of me,’ is David’s modest comment on his volunteering record. ‘It’s in your blood, is it not?’
Before you go! We absolutely depend upon the vital support of people like you to ensure that our services are freely available for everyone who needs help.
Can you help us?
To help everyone plan their life to the fullest in Spain, we provide free, accessible information guides - which are used by more than 1,000 people a week. Our trusted telephone and email Infoline service gives direct help to people who need extra support to maintain independence in older age.
Your regular donation of just €10 per month will enable us to provide a weekly friendship call to an isolated older person, every week of the year.
Your one off donation of €50 will enable Caseworkers like David to make a home visit to a vulnerable person who is struggling to access vital services.
Please donate if you can: https://www.ageinspain.org/donate. Thank you.
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