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The Season of Giving at SLU-Madrid

by Katie Gortz on 12/16/2021

Holiday giving kicked off this year at SLU-Madrid with the Thanksgiving Food Drive and the Solidarity Step campaign. 

Tapping into the spirit of Thanksgiving, students, faculty and staff donated non-perishable foods to support the soup kitchen run by the Hermanas Terciarias Capuchinas de la Sagrada Familia. Located near campus, the soup kitchen (in Spanish, comedor social) serves the community in SLU-Madrid's neighborhood. 

According to Campus Minister Paloma Gómez de Salazar Cordero, it serves approximately 150-200 meals per day to a wide demographic, including those who are unemployed and underemployed, undocumented individuals who do not have access to stable employment and social benefits, elderly people whose pensions do not cover their basic needs, and others. For many, a hot meal at the soup kitchen is their most significant daily source of sustenance. With participants in the Food Drive also making monetary donations, SLU-Madrid was able to provide 103 kilos of food to the soup kitchen to help continue serving meals to those in need. 

Food donated to the soup kitchen through the Solidarity Step campaign.
Through the Solidarity Steps  campaign, SLU-Madrid donated 161 kilograms of food to the soup kitchen run by the Hermanas Terciarias Capuchinas de la Sagrada Familia, as shown in the food donation tree. Another 103 kilograms of food were donated during the Thanksgiving Food Drive.  Photo by César Rioja.

The student-led Human Rights Club also joined the initiative to support the soup kitchen by running the second annual Solidarity Step. This campaign was envisioned as an opportunity to encourage the SLU-Madrid community to stay active while also reaching out to those in need. Students, faculty and staff recorded the steps they took on Saturday, December 4. Participants submitted screenshots or photos of their smartphones and fitness trackers to show their steps, and SLU-Madrid donated one kilo of food to the soup kitchen for every 5,000 steps taken. In total, the 57 participants recorded over 805,000 steps, meaning SLU-Madrid donated 161 kilograms of food.

For years, SLU-Madrid has also organized a faculty and staff toy drive during the holiday season in collaboration with Asociación AMPARA. This NGO distributes toys to children under the age of three who live in the association's shared apartments while their mothers reintegrate back into society after having served time in prison for minor offenses. The association, however, did not run the toy drive this year. 

As an alternative, Paloma Lladó from the Office of Student Life proposed collaborating with Reyes Magos de Verdad, a non-profit project which looks to bring back the joy of Christmas to underprivileged kids and adults across Spain and Portugal by distributing donated gifts. The children, who come from low-income families, and intellectually challenged adults who are served by this program send letters to the Three Wise Kings (Reyes Magos in Spanish), requesting their desired Christmas gift, according to the local tradition in Spain. Each letter is then given to a collaborator, who purchases, wraps and donates the requested item. The initiative was founded in 2008 and has grown each year since. Last year, over 11,000 gifts were distributed to those in need.

Gifts donated by SLU-Madrid faculty and staff to the Reyes Magos de Verdad project.

SLU-Madrid faculty and staff helped spread Christmas joy to 32 at-risk children and 26 adults in Madrid by donating gifts as part of the Reyes Magos de Veradad project. 

Lladó, one of the founding members of the initiative, explained the organizations protocols for participation: "Each year, Reyes Magos reaches out to youth shelters, nursing homes, parishes and NGO's that work with underprivileged children, or lonely or intellectually challenged adults. Many centers also contact the Reyes Magos directly. A coordinator from Reyes Magos visits the different homes, organizations and shelters, to assess their needs and offer an invitation to those in need."

"The Christmas season reminds us to reach out to those in need," said Madrid Campus Director and Academic Dean, Paul Vita, Ph.D. "Our community's acts of solidarity align with our identity as a Jesuit institution."