Why I Volunteered for the British Benevolent Fund of Madrid – Chairman Stewart Cusden

john-riggeFor those readers who never met Commander John Rigge OBE they will have missed one of those unique people who could always make things happen! Sadly, he died in 2012 aged 94 and after 22 years as Chairman of the British Benevolent Fund of Madrid and a very distinguished career in the Royal Navy.

At a lunch in Madrid in 2007 I sat next to John for the first time although we had met at various social occasions in Madrid since I arrived in Madrid in 1996 to head up an international oil company. During that lunch he explained the workings of the Committee and the need for additional people, both as volunteers to assist in social care as well as fundraising. John was at his best and most persuasive and there was no way he was going to take no for an answer and quite frankly he put a compelling case.

The BBF has been operating in Madrid since 1929 and it is unthinkable that after all those years it would not continue. But to do this it requires fresh faces, new ideas but of course at the same time maintaining its benevolence. I suppose that this is one of the facets of the BBF that is so attractive to me that whilst we do not have an unlimited pot of funds, there is no bureacracy and we can react immediately to meet the dire needs of anyone in distress, if it is well justified.

Age-Concern-222Working alongside Age Concern in Spain we hear of the plight of some British people whose circumstances are beyond belief, many times through no fault of their own. It is not our role to be judgmental but to help financially or otherwise to make a life better. It is probably appreciated that there are many British people in Spain who are not well prepared for old age and their circumstances much changed from the exciting days of coming to Spain in the 60s and 70s.

In addition government agencies in Spain and the UK are finding it more difficult to provide assistance in old age but with the help of the British Consulates, many times a solution is found.

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And this is where the BBF helps directly or by providing the conduit to find a solution. But it does take people and money to make it happen. The objective of the Fund is to help British people in Spain so the British community needs to support it in whatever way they can. So with Commander John Rigge RN, OBE always in mind devoting some of my time and using my own experience to keep this important Fund moving forward has become part of my life as well, just like John´s.

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