Maria is a retired nurse and well-respected community leader; and was awarded Maundy money by the Queen for her contribution to the local area.
1Can you explain the role you have been undertaking in the community in one sentence?I used to volunteer for Age Concern, where I supported and cared for local elderly residents in the Marble Arch area. My volunteering included escorting elderly residents on day trips, visiting lonely members of the community and coordinating fundraising initiatives.
2How long have you been doing this community role for?I volunteered for Age Concern and at a local drop-in service for 25 years, after I retired from my job as a nurse. Unfortunately I had to give this due to my health. I was a responsible resident in my housing complex for 17 years.
3Did you find yourself in this role by accident or by design?Caring for people has always come naturally to me. My parents weren’t religious, but we were always taught the importance of giving to others. I moved to England from Spain when I was 22 and worked as a maid before training as a state qualified nurse. I have always wanted to help and care for people.
4What’s the best part about your role?I love helping to make people happy. I feel caring towards everyone. Getting the opportunity to make a positive difference to people's lives has always made me very happy.
5What’s the strangest thing that has ever happened to you in your role?I was once supervising a day trip to Brighton when two of our elderly members went missing. We were so worried and were about to call the police when I found them arm in arm, laughing and giggling. I asked them if they had sneaked off to find boyfriends and they laughed. It was all fine in the end.
6What do you enjoy doing when you are not volunteering in this role?I used to love going to crochet classes and would often make shawls and tablecloths. I also used to enjoy making flowers from stockings, which we would sell to fund our day trips for the elderly. The flowers were made from stockings, telephone wire and dye. We could make any colour and people used to love them.
7What do you like about this area? I like how we are so close to everything. I especially like Regent's Park and Hyde Park. There is also a great sense of community in this area. The Waitrose staff know me and they are always so lovely. I have also got to know my pharmacist and his family well. His children call me ‘Nana Maria’ and send me cards on my birthday.
8Where’s your favourite place to go for lunch in the local area? The family of my pharmacist own a Bangladeshi restaurant in the local area. The food is amazing and it is very reasonably priced. I took eight of my friends for dinner on my birthday and the owners brought out a wonderful cake.
9Who is YOUR hero and what is it about them that inspires you?It has to be my pharmacist; he treats everybody so wonderfully. He is a very busy man with three children but he always makes time for everyone.
10If you could visit anywhere in the world, where would it be? It would either be Ireland or Thailand. I used to travel to lots of places when I was younger, but these are two places I have not been to and would love to explore one day.