Mexican student volunteers for COVID-19 relief work | Inquirer Lifestyle

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Alej, as friends called him: “I could see God in every person here.”

Mexican student volunteers for COVID-19 relief work

He could have flown home right away but chose to stay

Lasallian East Asia District head Bro. Armin Luistro, FSC, being filmed by La Salle University of Chihuahua student Miguel Alejandro Giron Aguirre

In the early days of the outbreak, he had an opportunity to go back home to Mexico. Yet he decided to stay—and even volunteered for relief operations throughout the Metro.

La Salle University of Chihuahua exchange program student Miguel Alejandro Giron Aguirre was ready and eager to study at the School of Management and Information Technology of De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde. The regular program included courses on Strategic Management and Business Policy, Product Management, Leadership and Management, Consumer Behavior, and Bible and Church.

Alej to Filipino friends, he looked forward to going to daily classes, befriending fellow students, immersing and adapting himself to all things Filipino—history and tradition, arts and culture, lifestyle and food.

“From where I grew up, the Philippines seemed like the other side of the world and I really wanted to come,” he said.

In his spare time, he even aimed to visit the top tourist destinations in the metropolis and the surrounding area. But early January, the month of his arrival, the Taal Volcano eruption in Batangas sent ashfall all over the region. Reports of the growing new coronavirus disease (COVID-19) threat increased by the day and later, there was the protracted lockdown that seemed to last forever.

Despite all this, the 22-year-old Marketing Management student chose to stay and volunteer for relief work.

“I wasn’t really planning to leave because of the virus,” he said. “To be honest, I didn’t think that this pandemic would go this far. But staying in the Philippines was the best decision ever.”

With the interruption of school, he participated in Kada Uno, an initiative that unifies the efforts of various Lasallian institutions, groups and partner organizations in support of the affected vulnerable and minority sectors.

On his way to relief work

Alej was assigned to the marketing and communications office, in charge of photos, videos and documentation. He worked alongside Lasallian East Asia District brother visitor Br. Armin Luistro, FSC, and the rest of the volunteers. They distributed relief packs to families in need, and provided temporary refuge to the medical front-liners and homeless in Manila.

This allowed him to experience the relentless warmth and kindness of Lasallians and Filipinos in general. “I have been seeing how in the difficult times, Filipinos always look for ways to help, and it’s something to admire,” he said. “I could see how a great team can make great things, and how people can be close even if it’s not physically. I also learned that nothing is impossible—the only person who stops you is yourself.”

Despite the threats of infection, Alej trusts the program’s consistent sanitation and social distancing protocols. “I really feel secured,” he beamed. “My parents were worried but at the same time they know I’m safe. I also regularly update them about what I have been doing here and they are proud of me.”

Missions

The international student is no stranger to Lasallian missions. He has actively participated in the programs in Mexico where they spread messages of faith to the community. However, it is the first time that he worked hands-on with such a huge initiative that aimed to address people beyond the Lasallian family.

“I found the mission as a set of actions that helps the communities develop a better life close to God,” he imparted.

He created digital content for La Salle Green Hills’ Flexible Lasallian Education through Technology and Collaboration at Home and the International Council of Young Lasallians’ Indivisa Manent, a virtual meeting which tackled topics such as racism.

Alej, as friends called him: “I could see God in every person here.”

Now that classes have resumed, he is enrolled under the Benilde Online Learning Term (BOLT), the college’s full online learning program, and is taking up Corporate Communications, Quality and Business Process Improvements, and Film Theory and Global Cinematic Movements courses.

As soon as BOLT is over, Alej will fly back to Chihuahua, Mexico.

“My trip ended up totally different. But to be honest, I couldn’t think of a better way to spend my exchange program. I met so many amazing persons and I also learned a lot of things,” he said. “Uncertainty is one thing that we are going to experience, and this helped me learn how to work in real life.”

When asked if he would come back to the Philippines, the young volunteer said he wished to finally explore the famous beautiful beaches of Palawan, Cebu and Negros on his next visit.

“Mexican and Filipino cultures are quite similar,” he observed, “But Filipinos are way happier. I could see God in every person I met here, and I am very grateful for all that I have learned.”