Kukoa Jóvenes is today a small volunteer platform, with just over two hundred volunteers among its members, but unstoppable.
For Pelayo Blanco, its promoter, his own personal history has a lot to do with this initiative: "I was born in Madrid on September 2, 2005, in a Christian family for which I thank God every day. Ever since I was a child, I have always wanted to share adventures with others. My two great idols are neither celebrities nor athletes: they are my grandfather and my father. My grandfather has raised twelve children and has run a company; he has had to suffer a lot: since his forties, when he had his first heart attack, he has had constant health problems. From my father I have learned to value attention to detail in daily work, dedication and devotion to the people you love. When I was fourteen years old, during the Covid-19 pandemic, I was amazed at how many people were suffering and hardly anyone really cared. In the midst of confinement, with my best friend, we started sending motivational videos to elderly people living in nursing homes. Soon after, I began to frequent a parish where they used to organize volunteer work, especially in the summer, where I discovered who the volunteer par excellence is: 'He did not come to be served, but to serve and to give his life for the redemption of many' (Mt 20:28): Jesus Christ" (Mt 20:28).
Little by little, the idea of a more organized volunteer program began to take shape in Pelayo's head, together with his group of friends: "As a result of these activities, and after spending a lot of time in front of the Tabernacle, I realized that there are many young people interested in helping, but often there is no easy access to volunteer work. In December 2021, when I was sixteen years old, I contacted a soup kitchen and organized a "camp" for my group of friends, in which we helped for a week to feed people in need. When it was over, I did the math and realized that almost sixty high school students had spent their free time helping ninety families eat hot meals for a week. During that week I saw how God showed me the path I had to follow to get to heaven: he didn't make it easy for me, but I couldn't refuse him"..
Thus, "A week later we created a team of nine fantastic people with whom I embarked on this madness: we defined four areas of action and publicized the initiative through social networks. In mid-January we organized the first volunteer work, handing out breakfasts to people living on the streets of Madrid, the capital of Spain. In this first action, Carlos, a sixty-two-year-old homeless man, asked us for a blanket; unfortunately, we had not foreseen this kind of request, so we could not help him at that time. Such was the impotence I felt that, on February 6, we distributed 300 blankets and 500 coats to people living on the streets of the city.
A few months later, Russia invaded Ukraine. Following in the line of the "madness" that has always characterized Kukoa, "We had an emergency meeting to organize a trip to Ukraine. We decided to go with a convoy of nine buses loaded with humanitarian aid to Ukraine, unload it and return with the buses full of Ukrainian refugees. After spending several nights organizing it, talking to important bus companies and possible donors, we assumed that it was a totally unfeasible project, so we decided to continue with our massive volunteers, but in Madrid. Hopefully we will soon have the means to cross the borders that we could not reach on that occasion"..
"Currently more than 230 high school and college students have attended our volunteer programs." highlights Pelayo Blanco. "We have four areas of action, organizing volunteer work every week in at least three of them.
-We mainly serve economically disadvantaged people, in this area, the star volunteer work is the solidarity breakfast, although we also help with collections from the Food Bank or Caritas and we collaborate with soup kitchens.
-On the other hand, children with disabilities and sick children are two of our other areas, where we organize leisure activities and home visits, which are quite similar.
-Finally, our pioneering project in Spain, Birthdays consists of going to terminal hospitals and nursing homes to fulfill the last dreams of the elderly.".
Dreaming the future: project 0
The young people who make up Kukoa see no limits to their initiative. This is what Pelayo affirms when he points out that "I wasn't kidding when I said that my goal is to change the world. The real final project of Kukoa, which we plan to inaugurate in 2030, is 'Project 0'. It consists of creating the largest volunteer center for young people in the world. A large complex in Madrid, housing an area for each of our 'target groups'. This involves a shelter for homeless people, where, in addition to having a home, they can receive vocational training and a job offer to reintegrate them into society; a school for children with disabilities; a school for sick children, where they can combine the treatment of their illness with education and fun. Finally, a palliative care hospital, as an alternative to euthanasia, so that they can truly have a dignified death.".
For this young man, "The most valuable thing I have learned at Kukoa is that help can come from an individual's will or can be assumed as a collective commitment. Its effect is multiplying and long-lasting, and the benefits are sustainable over time. If young people, as the future of society, become aware of the need to help others, many things will change. Young people must realize that it is our responsibility to do what we can to help others, to be part of what others need.
From my point of view, any volunteering is spontaneous, you empathize with other people's problems, you accept inequalities and seek to solve them creatively. Recognizing in any case that it is part of your moral responsibility to give to others. In short, we assume that a person does not feel completely satisfied by fulfilling his basic needs, but in order to close the circle of self-realization, he feels the need to help those people who are not able to cover the base of the pyramid, that is, the basic needs. And that is where the Kukoa Youth Association comes into action"..
With the experience of Kukoa Youth behind him, Blanco emphasizes that "I realized long ago that I'm not just any human, and neither are you, although you may not have realized it yet. In fact, the true beauty of life is to find what is that unique thing that sets people apart in order to bring it out. This is what Kukoa is based on, love of people and love of life, because they are both God's creations. Because we give out much more than breakfast, or meals; we give out joy, and that is what sets us apart".