THE Castalla International urbanisation, located just outside of the town of Castalla, Alicante is a true model community and a shining example as to how a positive spirit and desire to care for your neighbours can help strengthen communities and make them a better and safer place to live.
In February this year a group of residents got together to create a crisis response team with the goal to offer emergency response and social care services to the residents and in particular to the vulnerable members of their urbanisation.
An incentive originally put together by Jill Henderson and Jackie Scarisbrick, their team now comprises 42 people in total, including 18 fully trained emergency first responders trained in cardio pulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and automated external defibrillator (AED) use, plus a team of 14 support workers and 10 fundraisers.
Jill Henderson is a retired ex- army and psychiatric nurse with over 35 years experience working with the NHS who retired to Spain some eight years ago, which is where she met Jackie, an ex-surgical nurse for the NHS. After numerous incidents involving elderly residents on their urbanisation and the realisation that they now lived in a relatively isolated area where a rapid response from emergency services could not always be guaranteed, they set about creating their own crisis response team.
“I had been thinking about it for quite a while, the nearest hospital is in Alcoy, about 40 minutes away, and it was after an incident involving an elderly gentleman who had suffered a cardiac arrest that really pushed me to get something going” says Jill.
“Although Jackie had investigated the possibility of obtaining an AED for the urbanisation some two years prior to no avail, we had noticed early this year that there were a number of locations in town that had installed them, including the municipal sports centre, so we thought if they can have one then so can we.
“The benefits of having CPR and AED trained people on site are huge” explains Jill. “Effective CPR provided immediately after sudden cardiac arrest can double or triple a victim’s chance of survival and survival rates can reach as high as 50 per cent in communities with comprehensive AED programmes that include CPR & AED training and have AEDs available.”
Jill initially proposed the idea to the residents and gained a decent amount of support, so she went about preparing an operational policy, which they had translated into Spanish, and organised a meeting with the former mayor, Juan Antonio Candela and councillor for health, Carmen Bellot Belder, to present their idea.
After some negotiating they managed to gain the support of the town hall that agreed to purchase an AED for the urbanisation. The team then set about organising fundraising events and initiatives in order to raise funds to pay for professional training and now count on over 18 fully trained first responders living on the urbanisation, offering 24 hour a day emergency response.
“We have developed the programme to include a support team as well,” explains Jill, “so its not just life threatening emergencies we deal with, we provide a very valuable service to the 700 or so residents on our urbanisation, it’s a short term crisis care team that helps people get back on their feet after suffering from an incident, and helps to facilitate services that may not be available or are available but people are unaware of.”
The team are holding another fundraiser on October 10 at 2pm that includes a dog show and awareness stand offering basic training and explanation of how CPR & AEDs work, in an effort to gain more volunteers.