TEXT: GABRIELA DE NICOLÁS IMAGES: COURTESY OF THE VOLUNTEERS
During the pandemic, well aware of the critical situation many people around us were facing, Fundación MAPFRE volunteers have been organizing actions to assist and stand by the most vulnerable in the face of COVID-19. Providing company and food collection and distribution were two of the most repeated tasks during these months. Thanks to them, many citizens in a disadvantaged situation or at risk of social exclusion have managed to live a little better. In this section, dedicated to all those who altruistically devote their time and resources to others, we wish to pay them a small tribute.
Throughout the lockdown declared as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, there were many people whose social and/ or economic situation called for more help than ever before. And it was during this time that the Fundación MAPFRE volunteers did everything possible in an attempt to mitigate their hardship a little.
The VOLUNTEERS Program is an initiative of our Foundation designed to improve the living conditions of the most underprivileged individuals and population groups. According to 2019 figures, this program boasts no less than 11,300 volunteers in the 28 countries where the institution is present. Five of these generous individuals have related their experience helping others at the height of the pandemic.
For all of them, this was a highly rewarding experience that really helped them get through such a difficult time. Francisco García López, in charge of Issuing and Risk Underwriting for personal insurance lines at one of MAPFRE’s regional management offices in Spain, expresses it in these words. “At a time when going out on the street was scary and generated insecurity, putting on the Volunteer vest and face mask helps you forget the pandemic and set aside that insecurity. I believe that happens when you help people who most likely have those same fears, but with far greater problems than yours.” Problems such as loneliness.
For all our volunteers, this was a highly rewarding experience that really helped them get through such a difficult time
Precisely in order to alleviate this, the A Friendly Voice program was set up. The aim was for volunteers to interact with elderly people who were living through lockdown on their own. Francisco Irena, Business Administration manager in Mexico, did exactly that. “Within this program, I was assigned two outstanding, lovely ladies, Guadalupe and María Luisa. For six weeks, I maintained warm, fraternal conversations with them once a week.” Over this period, the volunteer and the elderly women struck up an intense friendship from which all three benefited. “The relationship with them gradually evolved as they merged into one voice, complementing my emotional outlet with experiences from another generation and another time, a Mexico I never knew.
This provided me with another viewpoint that was coherent and, of course legitimate, that I’d never have had without them. I thank them both for sharing with me that past – a first-hand history lesson, their story – in the context of the pandemic of this century,” a grateful Francisco declares.
Also clearly enthusiastic about the experience is Pablo Brandi, Human Resources advisor at MAPFRE Uruguay. His volunteer work was threefold, although he underscores the delivery of “2,000 baskets of non-perishable food to people who found themselves in a critical social and economic situation.” They appealed to the generosity of volunteers and the engagement of the company to accomplish this task: each MAPFRE Uruguay Seguros and Uruguay Asistencia collaborator, as well as the delegates and brokers, voluntarily donated the amount they wanted or were able to – and the company doubled their contribution. But the most moving part was the delivery: “Under pouring rain, we formed a chain with volunteers and foundation personnel. It was tough work, with a lot of responsibility. The coordinated teamwork progressively gained in efficiency with every passing minute. The words of encouragement, swapping roles, the continuous help and the toast afterwards marked a day of volunteering filled with passion, satisfaction and pride.”
This kind of delivery operations also took place in Spain. Francisco García López worked as a volunteer in several of them. One of them was with AMFREMAR, a soup kitchen in the east of Malaga. Another was with the Altamar association. For him, these tasks were really rewarding, but complex to take on: “It’s so frustrating knowing there are people living just a few minutes away, who have nothing to eat and lack clothing or a decent place to sleep. It makes you feel powerless knowing there are people who need you and that you can help, and yet you are confined to your home.” But the lack of food is not everything and so Francisco also worked on another project: “Exchanging handwritten letters between children of MAPFRE employees and children at risk of social exclusion. I was responsible for preparing and coordinating the activity. This is still ongoing, given that, in principle it was to be a letter from one child to another and their reply, but some have already sent two or three letters,” explains this highly satisfied volunteer, for whom “any volunteering activity generates a tremendous level of personal satisfaction. You feel a different person, more compassionate and useful,” despite the impotence of not being able to do more.
This is the same feeling experienced by Mar Morant, who works in one of MAPFRE’s Health insurance departments. “Especially at first, when I was collaborating in the delivery and manufacture of protective equipment for health workers.” But, for her, it is thrilling “to receive so much gratitude from people, when you have so much to thank them for… That frees you a little from how helpless you feel in these situations.” The impotence that makes you think “you can do much more, as you see people exhausted from working so hard, without enough time to do everything they’d like to, and yet they don’t hesitate to keep working. That example made me think that what each of us does, no matter how little, is important. That everything has been of some use.”
Helping out in this pandemic was almost Vanesa Murciano Sepulveda’s first volunteering experience (on one occasion she had helped clean the beaches of her native Valencia). This MAPFRE Health and Life advisor dedicated some two hours a week to her work as a volunteer throughout the pandemic. And she is certain to repeat the experience as “being able to help others has proved to be a highly rewarding experience. It makes you feel something very special. Moreover, the family I was assigned to were really nice. They thanked me every time I contacted them. So I felt someone extra special” she declares, clearly moved.
Proud of our volunteers
Fundación MAPFRE volunteers responded with all their might to this pandemic. More than 1,000 volunteers have participated in 65 activities designed to assist food banks, senior citizens and the aged, children admitted to hospitals and their relatives, children and youngsters at risk of social exclusion, and people with disabilities. They have also been teaching people how to use the new technologies, so that no one is left behind. This program was created to channel the spirit of solidarity of those who place their time and energy at the disposal of others, involving their families in the task, and who believe that generosity is essential to make this world a better place. This is to show that we appreciate their effort.