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The people who make a difference in the Canary Islands
   The people who make a difference in the Canary Islands

Coalición Canaria in San Miguel
Sonya Loughlin stands up for your rights
The four-yearly May elections will soon be upon us and preparations are in full flow.


Sonya Loughlin, poised for action
Sonya Loughlin, poised for action

line
04.05.2015 -

Last edition we were able to speak to Arturo González, ex-mayor of San Miguel and the Canarian Coalition’s (CC) candidate for the upcoming elections.  This time around, we’ve been speaking to British-born Sonya Loughlin who will be standing with the CC to represent her area, and act as a liaison between the English-speaking foreign community and the local council. 

The south of Tenerife has a particularly high ratio of non-Spanish natives living in the area.  For instance, out of the approximately 20,500 residents of the San Miguel area, 8,738 originate from other countries.  Over 4,100 of these are British, with a further 150 coming from Southern Ireland.  In total, that is a rather large percentage of the population, and many foreign residents are now standing to the fore to help the integration process – one of these being Sonya Loughlin. 

Sonya was born in Yorkshire, but moved north to Sunderland as a young child with her family.  Many years later she came to Tenerife on holiday and met the gentleman who would eventually become her husband.  Originally from the Spanish peninsula, Juan José is a footballer who was already settled in Tenerife when he and Sonya met.  Their relationship continued when Juan José went to the UK to study English and later to possibly play for Sunderland in the days when Dennis Smith was in charge.  Unfortunately, he fractured the back of his knee and missed that particular opportunity - though it was far from the end of his career - and he’s now a top coach who trains football instructors at Valle San Lorenzo Football Club.  The couple married in the UK and Sonya moved over to Tenerife 22 years ago.

During that time, she has lived for 16 years in the borough of San Miguel and feels a real affinity for the area. “I love San Miguel, and even though it has grown considerably, it still has that small community feeling: people get on well with each other and you know there’s always someone there if you need them.”

Sonya has worked at the Luther King School, also in San Miguel, for the last 12 years.  She began in administration, and this aspect of the job is still part of her duties, but she is now also an English conversation teacher. 

Sonya has three children, all boys.  Mitchel is the oldest at 18, Cristian is 15 and Sandro is just eight years old.  She obviously loves her job, saying it is “a pleasure”, and is proud that all of her children attended the school, with the two youngest boys still being pupils there.  She enjoys helping out, not only by working in the school but also in the local community.  

However, Sonya felt there was even more she could contribute, and as a consequence was recently inaugurated as one of 20 candidates for the CC for the upcoming elections.  For this role she will be representing her home area of Punta de Lomo as well as acting as an advocate for the many English-speaking foreigners who live in San Miguel.

We asked Sonya why she has taken the decision to commit herself to what will undoubtedly be a great deal of hard work.  

“Having lived here for the last 22 years, deep down inside, I feel as much Canarian as anything else.  I’m a people person and enjoy helping others so this is the perfect opportunity for me to give something back to the island that has welcomed me and been my home for so long.  I also passionately believe that everyone who lives here has the right to be heard and that their needs should be attended to, just as we would anyone else’s.”  

Her family is growing up quickly and Sonya sees this as the perfect moment to use some of her free time to support others.  She isn’t afraid of the commitment, saying she is “prepared to fight all the way, tooth and nail, to achieve everything I can for all the residents of the area.”

In fact, she believes it’s vital that expats play a bigger role in their community.  “I’d like to see a lot more involvement from the foreign section, not just on a social level, but also by participating more in organisation, say of local fiestas.  But at the end of the day, we need everyone’s opinion, feedback and support in all areas because without the local people, including the expats, the party is nothing.  We are, after all, here to serve the people.”

She is also a big fan of the CC’s candidate for mayor and admires González greatly.  “Arturo has always had a lot of respect for the support he receives from his team.  When he first came to me with the idea of being an advocate he stressed that he believes that family comes first, encouraging me to give only the amount of time that I could.  I found this really assuring and it gave me the confidence to go for it.  Arturo is really friendly and approachable as well, his door is always open.”

As a mother, Sonya is particularly happy to be living where she does and appreciates the peace of mind that comes from being based in an area which is so safe.  There are aspects that could nevertheless be improved in her opinion, especially for older kids.  Outdoor gyms and more social events aimed at that age range, for instance.  A higher level of foreign languages spoken by council administrative employees as well - English and German to start.  

She’s not the only one with good ideas:  if the CC make office some of their future projects are already planned out.

The neighbourhood of Golf de Sur is still high on the agenda.  As well as finishing the total adoption of the area into the council’s authority, they would like to see improvements to the bathing area at San Salvador beach and more parking by the marina – something that will not only benefit visitors but also local businesses.  The improvements to the San Blas area have been on hold for a while – funds from the Tenerife council are blocked at the moment – but the CC is determined to find what is needed to finish the project.

There are a number of ideas in the pipeline which will benefit the whole borough.  These include greater promotion of the range of water sports available; improvements to the council’s website (more information, an interactive page, and even the possibility of it being in English); more green areas; and enhanced communications between local businesses, hotels, tour operators and residents’ associations.

The most intense time for Sonya and the rest of the team will be the weeks leading up to the elections but she is not phased at all by the challenge.  “Yes, there’s lots to learn, but I am a very positive person and put lots of effort into making things work - I always have not only a plan B, but also a C!”

No matter what happens, Sonya will continue her role as liaison between the English speaking community and the local council, and wants people to know that “If they need us we are here.”

And they are indeed.  We asked the public to get in touch with Sonya with any questions they had so these could be put straight to Mr González. These are a selection of the questions that Sonya has dealt with recently.

 

1:  I read the article regarding San Miguel and how councillor González says their achievements include the resurfacing of the main road into Golf del Sur.  Myself and others living on the Golf would like to know when the last couple of hundred metres from the Information Office to the start of the one-way system is to be finished.   It would be interesting to receive a comment from the councillor, if possible please.

 

A:  The answer to this question is simple: that section of the road has not been finished as we are waiting for the Tenerife Council to finish installing sewage pipes.  Once those works are finished, the road will be resurfaced.

 

2.  I have noticed a few areas where with the change of a simple sign, traffic flow can be improved.  One is in San Blas: to go to Los Abrigos from Golf del Sur you have to drive right round San Blas.  If you take away just three parking spaces and transform the one-way street into a two-way you can save time... and petrol.  The same in Las Chafiras: behind the China Town store there is a one-way street that takes you from Golf del Sur towards Las Chafiras but you cannot use it to come back - you have to drive to the roundabout, which is often very busy.  A roundabout is also overdue on the intersection that takes you to Guargacho - where the right of way is not clear and where lots of accidents happen.   My attention is on traffic as I worked as a patrol officer in Italy.

 

A:  The ideas for improving traffic flow are appreciated and can be studied, but the outcome will depend on a favourable report from the technicians and police so unfortunately we cannot promise anything at this stage. 

 

3.  Could you tell us what improvements will be made for sports’ provision in the area?   At the moment there are gymnastics facilities that aren’t made the most of, we have no pool, and lots of sports aren’t practiced – for which we must travel to other municipalities.  And would it be possible to start safety courses on the BMX track near Las Chafiras?

 

A:  We always try to encourage sporting activities, especially in schools where there’s sufficient interest.  We do have a rhythmic gymnastics’ school as well as classes for judo.  It’s important that people let us know what they need as one of the starting points for initiatives is knowing that there will be enough interest.  As for the road safety courses – these are given in schools.

 

4.  There aren’t ever any workshops or anything in the El Aljibe Centre and it seems to be terribly underused.  The BMX track in Las Chafiras also appears to be abandoned.  What is happening with these?

 

A:  El Aljibe is only an exhibition hall – there are many workshops which are offered in cultural centres when there are enough members of the public to run the courses – just let us know.  The BMX circuit is still open to the public and anyone is welcome to practice there but, unfortunately, there has been some damage caused by vandals, it is a terrible shame.  

 

5.  What are the laws on mobile mechanics and mobile car washing businesses?  These people are taking lots of business from the legal garages, as well as causing contamination of the streets with chemicals and water.

 

A:  Yes, this is a problem and one that needs tackling by greater police presence as the laws clearly states that it is illegal to wash cars in the street.

 

 

Immediate solutions to everyone’s requests can never be given of course, but here are five people – and their interested friends – who have already benefited from being able to speak to Sonya. 

You too can also take this marvellous opportunity to make your voice heard.  Simply contact Sonya Loughlin on: sonyaccsanmiguel@gmail.com with any questions, concerns or ideas you may have.   After all, as the CC team happily admits:  “To date, we have done everything we possibly could, but not everything we wanted to, so there’s still plenty to achieve in the future”.

And what is their ultimate aim for the next four years?  “We want San Miguel to continue being the very best place to live!” 



Gallery: Sonya Loughlin stands up for your rights
Sonya Loughlin, poised for action  
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