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Asansull: Half a Century of Caring for the Disabled & Elderly

Martín Serrano · Photos: Fran Montes

Asansull: Half a Century of Caring for the Disabled & Elderly – María Luisa Escribano

From mid-July to August 23rd, the Museo del Istmo in La Línea, will be holding an exhibition highlighting the history of Asansull – ‘Association for People with Special Socio-Educational Needs of Campo de Gibraltar’ – through fifty black and white photos.

This is just the first of the events planned to mark its 50th anniversary which is coming up on the 25th of May, 2020.

Many people have been involved in this exemplary association, but without a doubt, the key person here is María Luisa Escribano who, whilst in Madrid in 1969, was asked by a group of parents from La Línea to start the project. The goal was to help parents avoid the daily commute that they were forced to make to take their children to a special educational centre in Algeciras.

Asansull María Luisa Escribano

“We obtained two small classrooms for special needs in Granada Street. The facility, provided by the Town Hall, was like a prison, and I made sure to make my thoughts public. I remember that I had to travel to Madrid to get permissions, since the Board did not yet have any powers. In 1988, we managed to move to a new school in Lirios Street, the Virgen del Amparo Special Education School, which is still in operation today. “

“We started doing things right away. We knew we couldn’t leave these kids out in the cold once they turned 18 and, and for this reason, we acquired 500 square meters in El Zabal – a far cry to the thirty thousand we have now – and started our first occupational therapy centre.”

Museo del Istmo in La Línea

The monumental and well-recognized labour of Escribano as the head of Asansull continued to increase since then. The exhibition shows some of these milestones, such as the opening of the first home in 1981, the first centre of early care in 1987 or the start-up of the elderly care service in 2000.

It’s been nearly 50 years since they began with just two small classrooms in Granada Street. Currently, Asansull has 25 centres in Campo de Gibraltar, with 630 professionals and 105 volunteers who serve 2,347 disabled and elderly people and cater for 1,099 families.

“Our struggle has always been the same. Our aim is to offer quality of life to the elderly and disabled, bearing in mind that each individual requires different treatment. The problem we face now is how to provide for the huge demand that we have.

Asansull María Luisa Escribano

We currently have 157 applications for admissions at the centre in Carboneros Street. In El Palmeral, we have a similar situation.” Looking back, Escribano feels “proud of the work done by so many people; this is something that cannot be done by just one person. We also had the support of the administrations and the frugal management of our accounts department. 49 years of savings to be able to continue helping and responding to these demands.”

She remembers, “how can I not remember Manolo Alés. He was such an artist, so committed… Now we have his son who is just like him. I remember the committed families, the way they fought to make this project a reality and the people who are no longer here but who I remember with great affection.”

However, Escribano recognizes that “much remains to be done” regarding catering for the disabled. “We have had supervised flats and residences of all kinds. We have great diversity and we must cater for all these people’s needs. There are still many milestones to achieve.”

Museo del Istmo in La Línea

A professional life marked by awards: “My reward is the affection that my children have for me. That’s what motivates me the most, and getting things done for them fulfils me. Although, of course, I am grateful for the awards, which are actually for the association.”

She has a reputation for being tough. “I demand from others what I demand from myself. I’m very demanding, it may be professional bias. It’s been fifty years already and I’ve seen it all, I was very young when I started. I had a very intense life, although I must admit I am too tough sometimes. In any case, I am much calmer at this last stage, all my sleepless nights have gone into a new organization which has come about through strategic planning. It’s time to look to the future and make sure that, when I’m gone, this continues working as well as now or even better. Everything we do here is for the disabled people. This is their home, and it must remain so. All my actions are focused on this endeavour.”

A LIFE

Asansull María Luisa Escribano

María Luisa Escribano, who holds the award of ‘Favoured Daughter of La Línea’, has dedicated her entire professional life to the underprivileged. She was a member of the Campo de Gibraltar Special Needs Education group between 1982 and 1997 and councillor of La Línea between 1987 and 1990 – as deputy mayor for Health and Social Welfare.

She was also a provincial delegate for the Social Services, although she left when this service was incorporated in other areas, voicing her disagreement when she found out that social services operated as an entity of its own.

She has received numerous awards for her work, such as the Cruz de Alfonso X el Sabio, the Gold Plaque from the Provincial Council of Cádiz, a Gold Medal from the Association of Municipalities, the Award to La Línea Woman issued by the local Town Hall, the Award Clara Campoamor in 2013 and the Medal of Andalusia in 2016, among many other recognitions.

Over the past fifty years, thousands of people have received the attention they deserve, the affection they demanded and the recognition of a society that has not been able to look the other way. All of it thanks to the merits and tireless struggle of this woman, who now threatens to step aside… But will she?

Asansull: Half a Century of Caring for the Disabled & Elderly – María Luisa Escribano

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