Imagine scrolling through your Twitter feed to find out your country has been hit with a massive earthquake. You’re stuck in a foreign country, feeling useless, wondering if your friends and family are okay. That’s how Keene State College exchange student Emilio Guerrero felt when his home country of Ecuador was hit by a magnitude 7.8 earthquake.
Guerrero came to KSC during the fall 2015 semester and enjoyed himself so much, he decided to stay for the spring. Here, the 21-year-old plays for the soccer team and studies finance and management.
“I have always loved numbers,” Guerrero said. “So when it came time to choose my major, it was easy for me.” He said he already has two internships under his belt working with insurance companies. This summer, he will begin his third internship in Ecuador.
“I love learning about the economy and what is happening around the world,” Guerrero said. After college, Guerrero said he would love to work for an insurance company.
Growing up playing sports, Guerrero was eager to continue that passion at KSC. He received a half-scholarship at his University in Ecuador for tennis and represented his school’s team for two years before coming to the States.
Here, Guerrero decided to pick up his love for soccer. “This season wasn’t the best season for the team, but I got to represent Keene and it was a great experience,” he said.
On April 16, 2016, the coast of Ecuador was struck by an earthquake. Two days after the earthquake CNN reported that 272 people died and thousands were injured. Days after the earthquake hit, President of Ecuador Rafael Correa said the number of casualties was expected to rise as rescue teams dug through the rubble. As of April 30, the death toll reached over 650 according to Fox News Latino.
The news team also reported that 4,605 people had been provided with health care for injuries.
Five hundred and sixty schools were struck by the natural disaster, 166 of them rated with a degree of damage between “medium and extreme” according to Fox News Latino.
Guerrero’s family lives approximately 130 miles away from the Coast in Quito, Ecuador. “I remember thinking ‘This is a joke, this can’t be happening,’” he said. “It was terrible because I knew it was so strong and I couldn’t be with my family.”
Guerrero said he was shopping when he found out about the earthquake via Twitter, and he immediately called his family. Fortunately, the Guerrero family is safe. “My family has been helping a lot,” he said about the earthquake relief. “When I arrive back in Ecuador, I want to organize my ideas better and see what I can do to help.”
Being thousands of miles away from home in a different country didn’t stop Guerrero from helping the people of Ecuador. He immediately set up a GoFundMe account so others could help donate for the cause. Guerrero has spoken to students and faculty about the earthquake and has encouraged them all to donate. Not only has he set up a page for donations, but Guerrero has also tabled in the Student Center to help raise awareness about the natural disaster. “Most people don’t know what is happening in Ecuador, so I have helped to explain the situation,” he said. Guerrero said his goal is to bring food and water to the Coast and help people who have been injured or affected by the earthquake in any way he can.
Guerrero said his roommate David Villalobos has been very helpful throughout the process. Villalobos said he has always thought highly of Guerrero since the first time they met. “I thought he was a bright and great kid, he was very polite and respectful,” Villalobos said. He said Guerrero always had a smile on his face and that “he was rarely upset.”
As roommates, Villalobos and Guerrero spend a lot of time watching professional soccer together. “Him and I are very passionate soccer fans,” Villalobos said. The two played on the KSC soccer team together in the fall. Villalobos said he would do anything to play with Guerrero one more time. “Nothing was better than having the chance to play with him last season,” he said, “He was a very good player.”
As for the work Guerrero is doing for Ecuador, Villalobos said he is very supportive of his roommate. “The work he has done shows how much he adores Ecuador and how he would do anything to help,” he said.
He said Guerrero “has shown lots of confidence and determination” to help out his beloved country. “Something like that has got to be respected,” he said.
Along with his roommate, Guerrero said the soccer team has been nothing but supportive of him.
Teammate Justin Coelho said he and Emilio became friends very quickly. “We would always discuss soccer together, it brought us very close,” Coelho said.
He said one of his favorite memories together was going on “sizzler dates” every Monday and Wednesday between classes.
I’m really proud to be friends with someone that put so much work and time into helping their country after a disaster,” Coelho said. “When he asked me to help him collect money I had no hesitation in saying yes.”
Guerrero said KSC’s recycling organization on Campus Keene State (ROCKS) has offered to donate their earnings from the year to help the earthquake relief in Ecuador.
“Here, five or ten dollars doesn’t mean much, but in my country it can make a difference,” Guerrero said. He said he hopes more students will educate themselves about the earthquake and reach out to help make a difference.
“A lot my friends that are studying here in America have collected a lot of money and I want to do the same,” he said. “I want to do my part.”
MacKenzie Clarke can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org