María Guevara Perea responded to the health crisis that disrupted the plans of her fledgling NGO LuzAzuL by providing assistance around her home. An ultra-local volunteer work before being able to (re)move on to other horizons.
Covid-19 deprived Seville of a traditional spring of popular and religious festivals. The Holy Week and the Seville Feria, events that every year gather tens of thousands of people in the colorful Andalusian capital, have been cancelled to follow health recommendations. As in the whole of Spain, one of the most affected countries in Europe, Covid-19 has sent everyone home, disrupted habits, stroke down the economy and put many projects on hold. María Guevara Perea’s project could not escape it. She was organizing the first trip of her NGO, LuzAzuL, planned for July to Morocco. « It was a project of initiation to volunteering, so that young people who had never done it before could have a first experience and would not jump directly into the unknown on the other side of the world », the 22-year-old woman explains. « The 80 places were already taken, there was even a waiting list. But it fell through. LuzAzuL is now completely distinct from its original goal ».
A project refocused on the ultra-local while small solidarities have sprouted all over the country. « I want to help, whether in Peru, Morocco or the street next door. If the need is behind you, you have to reinvent yourself », she continues. The neighbourhood soup kitchen is overwhelmed? María gives a hand. Walking the dog, taking the trash out or doing the shopping for at-risk populations, concerned by the idea of putting their nose outside? María and the 30 volunteers she coordinates throughout the city take care of it. Who to call to distribute the masks made by a neighboring business? María and her network. She admits that she doesn’t sleep much in general, and that she feels itchy after long weeks in quarantine. She uses her energy to « have a new idea every day. We also manufacture solidarity baskets that we hung on trees in the neighborhood. Neighbors put food in them, and those who need it take it. They are empty at mealtimes but always replenished », she adds. Indeed, her mother Angela Perea González interrupts all at once the Skype interview – lockdown obliging it – to show her the posters that she painted and that she will hang on the solidarity baskets.
From her room with blue and white walls strewn with travel photos, where María is preparing the final papers for her double degree in international relations and political science, she evokes the role of her mother, a 56-year-old building engineer. A key one. « She is the base of LuzAzuL, the pillar that supports everything. Before creating the NGO, I was afraid that I was not ready, that I wouldn’t know how to manage it. My mother pushed me. Without her moral and economic support, I wouldn’t have done it ». The association officially came into being in January 2020 to develop and coordinate cooperation and international volunteering projects. LuzAzuL, a family affair? In part. The deep commitment comes from María, the unconditional support from Angela. « Before creating the NGO, I was part of the association España Rumbo al Sur (which promotes the commitment of young people abroad) for five years. How did I get involved? My mother saw an advertisement on television. She knew I would like it, she searched the internet and left a document on my desk. It all started from there », recalls María, who then pushed her mother to go with her to volunteer in Uganda. The name of the association, LuzAzuL, is a palindrome. « It represents the two faces of the same world where we learn to see others as our own reflection in a mirror »,the website describes. Wouldn’t it be like Angela and Maria?
The young activist from Seville is looking forward to the end of the lockdown to go back abroad. After two years of study in Tokyo (Japan) and Buenos Aires (Argentina), as well as trips to almost every continent – she is missing Oceania – María would like to relaunch the NGO’s projects. This first initiatory stay in Morocco; the cooperation in Medellín (Colombia) to regenerate through tourism a neighborhood that lived from drug trafficking; the one in Peru, to provide assistance in two centers for psychiatric patients. « I want to encourage my friends here to follow me, but none of them are part of the association. They are not very interested. They tell me: “No, Maria, this summer you are going to Medellín, I am going to the beach. Around me, there was no one so committed and whom I could imitate. I try to be that person for others ».