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BocaTalk Brings SLU-Madrid Students Closer to Marginalized Residents

Nearly two years ago, a group of four SLU-Madrid students made some sandwiches and headed to Madrid’s city center to distribute meals among people sleeping on the streets. The sandwich, or bocadillo in Spanish, was only the pretext. The group’s main goal was to get to know and to become companions to some of Madrid’s residents who are homeless. 

Preparing for a BocaTalk session

Students prepare sandwiches for a BocaTalk outing in Madrid. Photo courtesy of BocaTalk

Although there are other organizations throughout Madrid which minister to the homeless, Paloma Gómez de Salazar, campus minister and coordinator of student service engagement, had the idea to create a SLU-Madrid club focused on connecting with Madrid’s homeless women and men through shared meals and conversation.

Gómez de Salazar mentioned the idea to Christian Roberts (Madrid ’17), who was a junior at the time. Three other SLU-Madrid students, Marta Blázquez, Sergio Bernabéu and Rama Ndiaye, were enthusiastic to join in. BocaTalk was born.

“This project has created community and raised our awareness of diversity,” Bernabéu explained. “Meeting people from different backgrounds, each one with their own unique life story, makes us see everything from a different perspective.”

BocaTalk (Boca for bocadillo, and Talk for companionship) is now a formally chartered club, led by Blázquez, a junior.

In the early days, Blázquez, Bernabéu, Roberts and Ndiaye would informally ask for donations in order to purchase the meat and bread for preparing the sandwiches. They soon identified the need to find a formal and reliable source of funding.

In search of donations of meat to fill the sandwiches, Blázquez approached the Asociación Nacional de Industrias de la Carne en España (ANICE), which agreed to offer corporate sponsorship. ANICE signed an agreement with SLU-Madrid on June 3, 2016, and has provided monthly donations used to purchase all of the materials needed ever since.

SLU students share a meal with some Madrid residents
BocaTalk's mission is to honor the dignity of marginalized Madrid residents through connection, companionship and sharing meals. Photo courtesy of BocaTalk


“Many of our visiting students are eager to participate,” Blázquez said. “Many come from other Jesuit universities where service is an important part of their experience and they are excited to continue to serve while they are studying in Madrid.” Now in its fourth semester of operation, BocaTalk has grown tremendously, with a wait list to participate in the bi-weekly outings to distribute meals.

Gómez de Salazar, who organizes service opportunities for dozens of students at SLU-Madrid every semester, feels that the success of BocaTalk is nothing short of divine providence.

“When something is meant to happen, it happens,” she said. A firm believer in the mission of Saint Louis University, Gómez de Salazar said she thinks that volunteering is a critical activity for today’s youth.

“Serving others truly allows students to make the most of their experience at SLU-Madrid, and learning to devote oneself to a cause teaches selflessness and devotion,” Gómez de Salazar said. “These skills are critical for raising a family one day, having meaningful friendships and relationships.”

More information about service opportunities at SLU-Madrid

Story by Katie Gortz, SLU-Madrid  Office of Marketing and  Communications.

BocaTalk members

Now in its fourth semester of operation,  BocaTalk has a wait-list for its outings and has secured donations from one of Spain's largest meat producers as part of an agreement that helps the club provide bocadillos to homeless Madrid residents. Photo courtesy of BocaTalk

One of Spain’s oldest and most renowned U.S. universities, SLU-Madrid is a center for international education in the country. Founded in 1967, it was the first U.S. university to be recognized by Madrid’s ministry of higher education.


Founded in 1818, Saint Louis University is one of the nation’s oldest and most prestigious Catholic institutions. Rooted in Jesuit values and its pioneering history as the first university west of the Mississippi River, SLU offers nearly 13,000 students a rigorous, transformative education of the whole person. At the core of the University’s diverse community of scholars is SLU’s service-focused mission, which challenges and prepares students to make the world a better, more just place.