“Out of Repsol’s 24,000 employees, there’s got to be someone with a story like yours who can help you.” This is the philosophy behind Marga Lozares’s Support Point, a project that, after five years in action, now involves over 100 company employees. Together with Diana Gómez and Marita Alesanco, they’ve created this space where coworkers who are going through difficult times in their lives can talk to and support each other.
“The services provided by our volunteers vary from having a coffee with someone who’s going through a rough patch to visiting them at home or going with them to a specific association that can help them out. We call these actions ‘services,’ but they almost always end up turning into friendships,” Lozares explains.
In general, any Repsol employee can join, but Marga says it’s important to remember that you must be ready to deal with critical situations: “It’s hard when we dig up stories about things that have happened to us, but when your story is able to help someone, it makes it all worthwhile.”
It was a life experience of her own that laid the foundations for this collaborative project. Marga recalls that it was in 2010, “during the Christmas season when I was diagnosed with breast cancer. When you hear those words, your world just falls apart.” Her friends and family are her main support network, but Marga needed to hear the experiences of other women who had gone through the same thing.
From left to right: Marita Alesanco, Marga Lozares and Diana Gómez.
“In my case, I received a lot of support from a coworker and a Repsol supplier. They explained to me how they had dealt with each stage of treatment and helped me understand the way my body was reacting.”
“It’s hard when we dig up stories about things that have happened to us, but when your story is able to help someone, it makes it all worthwhile.”
While she was on sick leave, Marga came to understand the necessity of having a meeting place she could go to: “a forum where people support each other and can share similar experiences.” When she returned to work at Repsol Campus in November of 2011, this idea began to take shape. “At first I thought of calling it ‘the Pink Point’ because I’d been thinking of having a place for women who’d experienced breast cancer, but little by little I realized that such a space should reach even further.”
That’s when Diana Gómez and Marita Alesanco “fell from the heavens” (as Marga recalls, laughing) and added their enthusiasm to the project. Their work was vital to managing all the requests, volunteer applications, and queries they received at the email address they’d set up for the project.
With the support of company management, the project was promoted internally so that all employees could learn about it and join. “It was just nuts,” a grateful Marga remembers. “We got more than 700 emails on the day we made our first post on the internal blog.”
Such was the attention garnered by the work of these three women that the Insurance, Legal Affairs, and IT teams all joined in to establish the legal framework for the Support Point and meet all the requirements for this type of initiative. They were also acknowledged by the Queen, in her role as honorary president of the Spanish Association Against Cancer (AECC).
Over the past five years they’ve put Repsol employees undergoing chemotherapy or recovering from major surgery in contact with one another. They’ve also helped family members of Alzheimer’s patients who needed to share their experiences with someone, as well as parents of children suffering from different illnesses. In the course of this work they’ve also forged ties with organizations such as Down Madrid (Madrid Down Syndrome Foundation), the AECC, and Trabajando en Positivo, among many others.
Unfortunately, this is a meeting place where the majority of the stories shared deal with different illnesses, but the Support Point also has room for all sorts of other experiences. “We’ve put employees who’ve been through multiple pregnancies and have millions of questions in contact with one another, and also people who know sign language,” Diana tells us.
In the future, these women see the Support Point spreading to all the other countries where Repsol is present. “We’ve already had one specific case coming from Ecuador, and in Canada they’re thinking about recreating this initiative.” This, according to the three founders of the project, “means that maybe we’re doing something right.”