Featuring Lynda Brettle, CEO for Samaritans Spain

  • Hello Lynda – good to meet you.  Where are you from originally and where do you live now?

    Born and brought up in England but worked overseas all my adult life – over 20 years with the British Diplomatic Service  on postings worldwide and then once I had a young family, I settled in Spain  in 2003. I initially set up a small language academy and then worked in various teaching / training roles – more recently I have studied counselling and social care.

    Did you choose Spain, or did Spain choose you?

    I think Spain must have chosen me as a chance visit led to us deciding to move here as a family and leaving the FCO lifestyle behind! No regrets – it is a fabulous place for kids to grow up and my son is at a bi-lingual secondary in Murcia and my daughter now in her final year at Alicante University.

    You are CEO for the Samaritans – tell us what the organisation is and how you got involved?

    I saw an ad in the local paper for people with my skills and experience to join the Board of Trustees. Having applied and been successful I was asked to take on the CEO slot. I am pleased to have become involved in such a vital and dynamic organization that offers a much needed support line to those in emotional distress.  Whatever the problem, any English speaker of any nationality can call our FREEphone number 900 525 100 which is open 24 hours a day, every day of the year.  Our listeners are highly trained and offer completely confidential and non-judgmental support.  We also have a drop-in centre in Torrevieja and at the British Embassy Madrid and visit prisoners in Alicante once a month.

    In your experience, what do people find hardest when they move to a new country?

    Leaving family and friends behind who many or may not have been in favour of your move. Feeling homesick and out of their depth when confronted with a strange environment, culture, language and so many new things to learn about.  Unless you are on a fixed posting with an employer from home finding work and schooling, medical care or whatever you most need can be daunting and frustrating

    Loneliness can affect anyone, even people living in the sunshine. Do you have any tips for counteracting?

    Number one – make an effort to learn the local language as not only will it give you confidence and independence but joining a class will help you meet other “newbies”. Look in the papers or online and find a social club that might interest you where you can meet other like minded folk and get involved.

    No one needs to be lonely – wherever you are in Spain you can always contact Samaritans and have someone to talk to– follow us on  Samaritans in Spain Facebook page and Twitter.  Our first  “Friends of Samaritans” fundraising and social group has recently formed based in Los Montesinos (Alicante).

    The Samaritans is a charity, how can people get involved?

    We always welcome more volunteers.  Due to the transient nature of the expat community we have a steady turnover of people on the team and big gaps to cover when members are away for long spells.

    For more info visit the website or email pat@samaritansinspain.com.  Right now we are looking to set up new groups of listeners in Mazarron, Javea and Alicante/Gran Alacant – so would especially love to hear from other Costa Women in those areas! There are non-listening vacancies too in our Punta Prima (Torrevieja) charity shop, and admin type work….so please do get in touch for more details!

    What was your greatest challenge, whether personal or business when you moved to Spain?

    When I worked overseas before Spain I was working for HMG and all staff had a lot of admin / welfare back-up and training, including language immersion.  It was a big adjustment to come onto “civvy street” and be personally responsible for researching and setting up everything myself with no one to guide me on everything from opening a  bank account, putting kids into school, medical, local bureaucracy and how things do – or don’t- work. It can be nerve.wracking and I really admire those for whom this is their first experience of living outside their home country as it is not always easy – amd certainly not if you do not have any knowledge of Spanish language and cultural differences.

    What advice would you give to Women thinking about moving here?

    Do your homework before you come on requirements for working or retirement possibilities  – learn Spanish!  Rent first before you buy into a property make sure the area / lifestyle is right for you.

    Have some emergency funds for a rainy day – they do say the only way to make a small fortune in Spain is to arrive with a very large one!

    More about Lynda, when you aren’t working for the charity where would we find you?

    I enjoy travelling and take off on trips around Spain whenever I have chance.  It is such a country of variety with plenty to enjoy from beaches, to the mountains to city breaks.  I also like to keep fit – with pilates and zumba - without good health we have little.  Money cannot ever buy you that or an extra few years of life. My partner runs a motorsport company in UK and a need for speed so we are often at Cartagena or other local race circuits.  My kids are young adults now but we do things together whenever we can and I always do my best to catch up with lots of old friends frequently.

    Any special plans for 2016 for you personally?

    We have our Samaritans AGM in February and it gives me so much joy again this year to be  moving ahead with our expansion programme and working together with such  a terrific bunch of people.  On the home front we have a rural cottage in Murcia that we have restored and is near completion so we can move from our temporary rental down here.  We also have a modern apartment in Alicante so we can ring the changes –  we are all very fortunate.  My daughter graduates this summer and my son moves to UK  IGCSEs so a buy year ahead.  Would love to holiday in Cuba if time and money permit!

    Who is the person you admire the most and why?

    I would find it very difficult to name just one as I have lots of people I have admired and been inspired by from public figures to my mother-in-law!  The qualities in them I most admire is strength of character and personal confidence.  A willingness to do whatever  it takes to get results without resorting to dishonesty or harming others.  A good sense of humour and respect for other people while standing up for what they believe in and taking charge of their own lives  - living life to the full and not having any regrets.  And overcoming difficulties and setbacks in order to do so. Positivity!

    Favourite movie, or book and why?

    I love reading especially biographies, or books that challenge our perception and make us think but for  relaxation I prefer films and something light-weight and fun for some escapism – Back to The Future and Grease I can watch time again.  And any comedy DVD from Fawlty Towers to Mrs Brown's Boys – there is nothing like a good laugh to make you feel better if you are tired or feeling down.

    What 3 things would you want on a desert island and why?

    Well there would have to be some crops or rabbits and chickens as I could not survive on fish and seafood – I am seriously allergic and would keel over!  I hope there would be some other human life there too as although I am very independent I do like companionship and others stimulation for ideas.

    And I guess a cave where I could build a safe and secure nest from the elements and rest easy!

    Where do you see yourself living in the next 10 years?

    Spain is my permanent home now  - I left UK for the first time to go overseas in 1980 and have not looked back really.  However, my partner´s business in UK may require us to spend more time there over the next couple of years before we can retire!  Steve is keen for us then to go back travelling the world so if we are lucky enough to be in a position to do so we will be globe trotting in hopefully less than 5 years time and may spend part of the year in USA or Australia or wherever the kids end up within the next ten years for their own careers!

    How can we find out more about the Samaritans?

    Our website is www.samaritansinspain.com

    Samaritans in Spain and Friends of Samaritans are on Facebook and Twitter

    Email: enquiries to  pat@samaritansinspain.com

    (Please note our services are in English only – although we do operate an emotional support service by email  in Spanish as well via to  pat@samaritansinspain.com)

    Thank you so much Lynda!


  • Debbie
    Debbie Hi , I recently moved here from Ireland and was a Samaritan there , I'm living in Nerja and wonder is there any branch here as I would be happy to start volunteering here . Debbie
    January 25, 2016
  • Aly Farmer
    Aly Farmer  I found this so very interesting. As a spanish language teacher I found that the part where Linda mentioned "joining a language group" is so true, my group in La Cala have now made new friends today and are rather shy, but getting there. I find with my...  more
    January 27, 2016