Erick, a SCI Madrid volunteer, has come all the way from Mexico to join Casa Samuel, a centre for people living with HIV and in vulnerable situations, for two weeks. 

“Hello, my name is Erick Gascón and I would like to tell you about my experience in my volunteering, which has been very satisfactory on a personal level. Working with terminally ill people has not only been a good opportunity to empathise with them, but it is also an obligation we have as participants in society. 

All the people have been kind enough to tell me their stories. In each and every story I have realised that most, if not all, of these people have had an extremely difficult life. Some of them were abandoned and raised as children on the streets, so they were exposed to drugs, violence and other injustices. In addition, many of them have no one to rely on, so the work Caritas does for these people, monitoring their nutrition, medication and specific care, is crucial.

As an artist and teacher, I carried out a project in which they had to develop a painting, using the abstract technique. I wanted to encourage a reflection: it is precisely the stains, the imperfection or something different from the usual, that can make a work of art also a piece of beauty. Just as in their lives, they and she had things that at the time were unfair or had negative connotations, yet their lives remain a work of art that can inspire beauty.

They and she were reluctant and refused to do the activity at first because they said they had never painted in their lives and would do it badly. I was very happy to see them enthusiastic when they achieved the goal and liked the result.

Following the Mexican tradition, we played the lottery. And by spicing up the game with a bit of competitiveness and energy, we managed to get them so excited that they were very focused on knowing which card would come up. We also had to explain to them the meaning of some words because of the culture shock, as the other volunteer and I were both Mexican. Also, by looking at the pictures they learned about Mexican folklore and it was not an obstacle for those who could not see, or could not read. Again I was happy to see their excited faces and enjoy their triumphs.

To get more involved in the lives of the residents, I dedicated Saturdays to Juan Carlos, whose health has improved a lot and who likes to play sports. I took the opportunity to refute his idea that volunteers only go to the care centre on holidays or, as he says: “They wash a couple of dishes, feed the residents and then go on a trip to another country”. I told him that I have been doing social work since I was 16 years old and that I visit communities to support people, through artistic activities or the circus. I told him that it was not by accident or chance that I was chosen to work at Casa Samuel, that I chose to be with them. This is why he was able to confide in me and wanted to share his story with me, which is very sad, but who hasn’t made mistakes in life? He said that HIV medicine is advancing very fast, but that people’s prejudices “have remained in the Middle Ages”. He said that it is not difficult for him to find women to date, but that exclusion because of his HIV is very strong, and even though he has treatment and can no longer transmit the virus, people still reject him.

Giving them food, teaching them computers or Spanish language and grammar to immigrants made me feel that there are still many things to do for the world and our surroundings.

Moreover, we were interviewed and featured in the newspaper as a member and activist of the LGBTQ+ community

It was very sad to say goodbye to them and to her. Even more so when two people died while I was volunteering and another was seriously ill in hospital. I was happy to know that they didn’t want me to leave and that the weeks I was with them passed so quickly. I felt goosebumps when I said goodbye to them at dinner and told them that I admired their courage to face life and they started to applaud. I write this with a lump in my throat because of the lack of understanding these people have and the intimate closeness I had with Jesús who stayed in the hospital, and with the death of Sebas, who gave me candy all the time. In gratitude I drew a picture of each of them and of her.

Finally, I would like to thank you, SCI Madrid, also for giving me the opportunity to get connected with Casa Samuel, which undoubtedly changed my life forever.”