“Volunteering and helping out is the best way to fill your time”

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Chris Cluderay with Petal the goat at his home near Alcaucín. / J. RHODES

Chris Cluderay is president of the Association of Volunteer Interpreters of the Axarquía and is also involved in charity in Alcaucín

Chris Cluderay has been president of the Axarquía Hospital Volunteer Interpreters Association for eight years and has volunteered with them for 11 years.

He guided his team through the effects of Brexit and of course the Covid pandemic, when Britons and other Europeans living in the Axarquía needed help with post-Brexit rights, Covid vaccinations and of course hospitalizations. He is also involved in a local charity in Alcaucín, where he and his wife have lived since 1995.

Chris, 72, is from Yorkshire and has spoken Spanish since a young age. he discovered a passion for the Spanish language as a teenager when he started learning at school. “I just clicked on it,” he says.

After studying the language at ‘A’ level, Chris came to Madrid where he became an English teacher. He returned to the UK where he taught Spanish in British secondary schools and says he has been back and forth between the two countries since then.

He participated in teacher exchanges and was a language assistant in Spanish schools. However, it was in 1995 that he and his wife Sheila decided to move to Spain full time.

Having spent most of his time in Madrid and the north, I asked Chris what brought the couple to Andalusia. “Sheila’s brother had a holiday apartment in Puente Don Manuel. It was very primitive at the time, but you could see the area changing. We knew we wanted the countryside and were drawn to the way of life,” he admits.

They bought a house in the ‘campo’, slightly north of Puente and have stayed there ever since. “It was a ruin,” Chris recalls, adding that one of their main challenges was not being able to get fresh milk, so the couple bought their first goat. “We didn’t know how to milk her and on our first attempt it took us about an hour to get half a cup,” he laughs. Speaking Spanish, they quickly befriended a local herd of goats who showed them the ropes.

Chris and Sheila continued to have more goats as well as a few sheep and even ventured into the world of pig farming at one point, but only two “retired” goats remain, Nieta and Petal . They also raise chickens and hens and have a vegetable garden on the small holding that came with the house.

“Having all the animals has been very endearing. We haven’t been able to travel much because you can only go if you can find someone to look after them,” Chris admits, adding “I would recommend it to anyone those who don’t like to travel!”

Volunteering

It was when Chris started to cut back on teaching, which he did here in Spain for several years – both Spanish for foreigners and English for Spaniards – that he went at the Axarquía Hospital to offer his services as a volunteer.

Chris explains that the system is much more organized now than when it started. “It was pretty ad hoc,” he says, adding that volunteers showed up and waited in A&E (Urgencias) and it “grew organically from there.”

The association was formed around 12 years ago and a formal agreement with the Junta de Andalucía was signed around eight years ago. “I really enjoyed it,” he says.

When there is no service at the hospital, which since the start of the pandemic has only offered telephone service, the regional government still does not allow volunteers to have a physical presence in the health centres. health, Chris also helps locally with the Alcaucín Community Association.

He explains that they have a thrift store as well as a bookstore, which is the part he runs. The association raises “a lot of money for local charities and families”, explains Chris. He also supports a school in Africa and has helped the local primary school, most recently raising money to buy sports equipment and a new television.

The retired Spanish and English teacher says volunteering and helping others is “the best way to fill your time”.