In a Matter of Days, Alums Raise $4,000 and Fly to Mexico to Help Earthquake-Ravaged Villages

Kevin Guerrero, left, and Sebastian Escobar, second from right, distribute hot meals with fellow volunteers

Civic engagement is a core value at William Paterson University – a value that alumni Kevin Guerrero ‘15 and Sebastian Escobar ’15 continue to exemplify. Together, with 10 friends and family members that Guerrero recruited, the duo traveled to earthquake-ravaged parts of Mexico, spending three days making as much positive change as they could.

Guerrero has family living on the outskirts of Mexico City, in Moreles, which was fortunately spared by the earthquake of Tuesday, September 19. His heart went out to the those who weren’t spared, though, and so, a few days after the quake, he asked his mother if she’d make a trip with him to help out in some way. Come Friday, they were booking flights for the following Friday.

By Saturday, a group of 10 friends and family – including Escobar – decided to join.

Each volunteer started using social media to collect funds for supplies to distribute in Mexico, and by the time their flight touched down in Mexico on Friday, September 29, the group had raised $4,000.

“We were thinking of bringing supplies down with us, but then we decided we’d rather spend the money in Mexico, to help the Mexican economy,” Guerrero says. The group set up camp in his family members’ homes, and then quickly set out to purchase water, oil, rice, beans, bread, blankets and clothing.

The volunteers assembled about 120 care packages that they distributed across villages in need. The next day, they personally prepared 200 hot meals for distribution.

“The biggest surprise for me when we were there was hearing from people that the government didn’t offer enough assistance to those living outside of Mexico City, in harder to reach areas,” Escobar says. “And then I noticed: In Mexico City, there were rescue crews, volunteers, tents, donation centers, people going through the rubble. But in the outskirts, that help wasn’t really present there, and they got hit the hardest.”

Escobar, the manager of William Paterson’s WPSC FM radio station, was so moved by what he saw in Mexico that he decided to use his trip to educate others. In a four-hour window between volunteerism efforts, he interviewed local officials and residents, and put together a 10-minute news report. His report aired on college radio stations across the globe during College Radio Day, on October 6.

Listen to Escobar’s report here:

One of the most humbling experiences in Mexico, he says, was when they drove their van through a village, opened all the windows, and started handing supplies out to a throng of 100 villagers who had gathered around the vehicle. “The looks on their faces, the kids and the elderly, they were just so grateful, so happy to receive this little bit of help they were getting,” Escobar says. “It wasn’t much, but we gave as much as we possibly could.”

Noticing how many homes were without roofs, the volunteers also put money toward the purchase of roofs for many such crumbling structures. By Monday, they were on a plane, headed back home for their respective jobs.

“I left there thinking, ‘There’s still so much to do,’” says Guerrero, a producer and DJ at 92.3 FM AMP Radio. “It was a really eye-opening experience. I’m happy to have been a part of it and to see that we had so much support from friends, family, even strangers … it was just amazing.”

Since his return to the U.S., Guerrero has learned about a school in Mexico, in San Antonio Alponacan, which was entirely destroyed and will be out of commission for approximately 8 months. He is in the process of working with school officials and his fellow volunteers to organize a fundraiser that would support the school’s move into a temporary space, as well as its construction efforts. He hopes to visit Mexico again for the school’s grand re-opening celebration.