by Michaela Willi, ICCSN Representative

A national meeting of Survivors in Spain was held on the 19th and 20th of October 2012 in Madrid. Michaela Willi represented ICCSN at this meeting and gave an input for the collaboration of regional survivors groups within a country.

The local Spanish survivors group called “Veterans”, established in 2007, is working in Madrid. At the beginning, the group was also named survivors, but was changed in course of time because of its medical background. For them the meaning of Veterans is not only related to the fact of surviving childhood cancer, but also to the experiences they have made during this period of time, which they want to share with others. For joining the Veterans three conditions, despite of being a survivor of childhood cancer, have to be fulfilled: (i) age between 18 and 30, (ii) conversation with the psychologists of the ASION (Asociación de Padres de Niños con Cáncer) and (iii) being a member of the parents organisation ASION. Since 2009 their aim is to get visible in the broad public and for this purpose receiving strong support of the ASION.

The group Veterans already offered camps, published information material for teenagers and offered a workshop for photography. Additionally, they published the book “A través de mi cámera” (“Through My Camera: Teenagers with cancer picture their world”) in 2011, causing a huge response in the Spanish media. Moreover, the group was honoured with the prize “Young Social Entrepreneurs Award” of the European University Madrid and therefore, they win out over 93 other projects. In 2011 the Veterans caught attention to the international cooperation of other survivors groups. Consequently they developed a few new objectives: (i) organisation of a national survivors meeting to enable collaboration between all Spanish survivors groups and (ii) participation at congresses and ICCCPO meetings to exchange experiences about their group and as well to collect new ideas for their group.

Regarding the national meeting, the Veterans contacted us to get ideas and detailed information for the establishment of a national cooperation between all Spanish survivors groups. In this context it is necessary to mention that Sabine Karner and Michaela Willi have used the ideas of a workshop of the ICCSN at the SIOP congress in 2011 to develop the handbook “How to establish a survivors group and how to keep it going”. At the two-day national meeting in Madrid the International Survivors Network was represented by Michaela Willi. She held a presentation about those parts of the handbook, which are adequate for the current situation of the Spanish group. The main objective was giving support in how to start the project “national collaboration between all survivors groups” as well as to illustrate them the most important steps that have to be fulfilled at the beginning. After the presentation, the Veterans, who came all over Spain to this meeting, sat together and initiated their project with the help of a supervisor of the ASION.

The group was very happy that Michaela Willi came to Madrid to give them input for this important step. Summing up, it can be reviewed that this weekend offered a great possibility of international exchange of knowledge and ideas.

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