Sharon Bell – Coffee 4 All

Sharon Bell – Coffee 4 All Credit: Sharon Bell

Sharon Bell is proof-positive of how adversity can reshape lives in new and unexpected ways.

Living in Albir for over 20 years, her journey led to the introduction of the concept of ‘Pay it Forward’ in Costa Blanca North.

A ‘Leeds lass’, Sharon spent much of her adult life living and working in the UK, first in sales and then in a primary school.

She became a mum in her late twenties and was blessed with a boy, Evan.  Unfortunately, her relationship with Evan’s father was to end seven years later, which became a real turning point in Sharon’s life.

A stay with her parents at their new holiday home in Villajoyosa was to change everything. While there, she met with the headmistress of Elian’s British School, which had just opened in La Nucia and was advised that some positions would be available the following year.  With Sharon’s primary school experience, It seemed fate had stepped in and shown her what path to take.

As Sharon explained, “With the permission of my son’s father, we made the move in 2003, and I immediately knew that I was in the right place.” So much so that within just four weeks, Sharon found and bought an apartment for them both to live in.

With Evan attending the same school and quickly picking up the language, things really fell into place.

Sharon found the language aspect of things a little more challenging. However, she welcomed the opportunity to practice by attending Spanish classes at the school and assisting Evan with his homework.

She readily admits that the language barrier was the biggest challenge initially.  Smiling, she said, “Especially when some words are one letter away from being rather embarrassing.  Yes, drawers and chicken, I’m looking at you!.”

After working at Elian’s British School for 18 years, Sharon was shocked to be told three years ago that she would be made redundant. “I was so scared about my future and what work I could find, but my parents told me not to worry and that as long as I had them, I wasn’t going to be on the streets.”

Those words opened Sharon’s eyes to just how lucky she was, especially when she saw a young man sleeping rough.  Wondering where his parents were, she bought him breakfast but couldn’t shake the feeling of needing to do more.

Homeless Costa Blanca North

She had friends, Jonny and Arne, working at a local homeless charity, City Streets Community Project  (a part of Project 4 All) and thought maybe the ‘Coffee 4 All’ concept she had seen in a café while in the UK could contribute in some way. She explained, “Customers at the café leave a small donation towards the cost of a drink or snack, which can then be collected to take away by those fallen on hard times.”

Recognising that for some, it was too embarrassing to walk in; the donations are now used to pay for meals cooked at participating restaurants by charity volunteers.  Sharon said, “This way, customers who donate can write a message or doodle on a Post-it and attach it to the meal. This simple act brings a smile, knowing that complete strangers care and want to help.”

Currently, the scheme has 10 participating restaurants across Benidorm, Albir, and Teualda. Sharon aims to increase the number to 30, with a greater presence further up the coast towards Denia.

When not involved in the charity, Sharon enjoys teaching private English lessons to children, going out in Benidorm with friends, photography, swimming, and visiting her son, who has since moved back to the UK.

Her advice to anyone wanting to move to Spain is not to expect it to be a holiday. She said, “Things can often feel twice as difficult to sort out here with the bureaucracy and language barriers. Wages are generally very low, and like everywhere, things have increased in price, so it’s not easy.”

Having said all that, Sharon feels incredibly lucky to live in such an amazing part of the world and loves how everyone supports each other.

Sharon reflects, “When life throws you a curveball, you sometimes realise there’s more to life than working 9 to 5 in the country you were born in.”

Those wishing to learn more about Coffee 4 All – Homeless Support can visit their Facebook page.

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Written by

Donna Williams

Marketer, copywriter, storyteller and President of Samaritans in Spain. They say variety is the spice of life and I am definitely loving life!