In this blog, our Acting Executive Director, Kate Shurety, reflects on her time representing the Campaign to End Loneliness in the Basque Country, Spain.

The Telephone of Hope

At the start of November, I spent very productive few days in Donostia/ San Sebastian in the Basque Country, Spain. The Campaign to End Loneliness was honoured to have been invited by The Telephone of Hope (TEG) in that region. They handle thousands of calls all year round from people in crisis and have discovered that many people call because they feel lonely.

Each year they hold a conference on a theme. This year they were keen to examine loneliness in more detail – alongside a task force of individuals from a range of organisations. The TEG’s ambition is to create a positive force for change, becoming more proactive in reducing loneliness as well as being there for people when they are needed most.

“The interest in the issue and depth of experience from the audience was clear from the outset from the questions posed.”

The Conference started off with an open event for the whole community where I was interviewed by a leading journalist Lourdes Perez.

The interest in the issue and depth of experience from the audience was clear from the outset from the questions posed. Some were interested to learn more about the impact of loneliness on the young and old and how that can present in different ways.

Others were more concerned with the role that social media and digital technologies can play in both making the problem worse and providing solutions.

My hosts were warm and generous – with their time and patience (with me for having awful Spanish)! It was also fantastic to make connections with Joaquin Fuentes, a board member at TEG, who is also a renowned specialist in autism, as well as Maribel Pizarro, a former psychologist and current director of TEG, amongst many others.

On the following day I was involved in a series of workshops. They were attended by more than 70 professionals from the city council, third sector, healthcare, police, and youth and community projects. All with a shared interest in loneliness. Being part of this was both exciting and quite humbling due to the years of experience and knowledge in the room.

Common themes

It was interesting to see some common themes emerge, especially ones which were definitely recognisable in the UK context. The importance of reciprocity when developing interventions and solutions to reduce loneliness was a recurring theme. As was the centrality of community, encouraging and fostering strong communities with inclusive cultures of belonging. This was particularly in relation to how they are part of the social change we are all trying to create.

The last common theme I noted was on the importance of working across organisations to foster solutions as diverse and personal as the experience of loneliness can be. As one delegate said:

“We should not talk of loneliness; but of lonelinesses.”