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SLU-Madrid’s Volunteer on the Front Lines of COVID-19 Relief

by Katie Gortz on 07/16/2020

At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, SLU-Madrid sophomore Magda Pereira López watched as her home country of Spain went on lockdown. While she continued her studies remotely from the safety of her home, she was keenly aware that the quarantine was nothing short of catastrophic for many. People were losing loved ones without the chance to say goodbye. Many were facing job insecurity and unemployment. Pereira knew that she needed to help.

Driven by her Catholic faith, Pereira set out to see how she could serve all those in need. “I want to be the salt and light for others,” she said. “As the Jesuits say, this is the spirit of being men and women for others.”

Pereira’s search for a way to help began with her peers in Grupos Católicos Loyola, a Jesuit student community that she belongs to. She found other like-minded students who were driven to help in any possible way to combat the devastating impacts of COVID-19, and specifically in their home city of Madrid. Through a collaboration facilitated by Pereira’s grandfather, who works for Cáritas, a confederation of Catholic service organizations, Pereira and her peers joined a group called “Ayudando vs. Coronavirus.”

Through individual and corporate donations, Cáritas acquired tablets, computers and mobile phones to distribute among at-risk families, allowing children to stay connected for homeschooling during the quarantine. The first task that Pereira and her peers took on was to reformat the devices to prepare them for distribution.

The student volunteers were then asked to distribute food to households that were under quarantine, in which adults with active COVID-19 infections were prohibited from leaving their homes to buy groceries. This relief effort was focused on the districts of Usera and Orcasitas (Vicaria VI of Cáritas Madrid). For Pereira, the task opened her eyes to a whole different reality that existed just 15 minutes away from her home. 

Magda Pereira López distributes groceries to families who are confined to their homes.

Volunteers for the Cáritas COVID-19 food distribution program observe strict safety protocols. Magda Pereira López says she keeps the families close to her in her prayers, which allows her to feel connected to them spiritually, since volunteers are unable to go into family's homes and get to know them more directly.

Pereira said she and her fellow volunteers observed strict safety protocols in terms of personal protective equipment and social distancing, which naturally limited contact between her and the families she served. “I would love to get to know these families more,” Pereira commented. “They have been very kind and grateful, without exception. Unfortunately, we cannot go into their homes to have a nice chat with them, due to the COVID situation.  But I send my love and kindness to these families in my prayers, and I like this spiritual way of 'knowing them' too.”

The Catholic magazine Alfa y Omega recently featured Pereira in the article, “Voluntarios: nuevas historias de humanidad.”

About Pereira

Pereira was born in London and grew up in Madrid. She was educated in the Spanish educational system, but was drawn to SLU-Madrid for her university studies because she was looking for a new experience and new way of learning. She is pursuing a degree in biomedical engineering with a minor in computer science. This fall, she plans to continue her studies on the St. Louis campus, either online or in-person.