The short answer is tenacity. The "stick -to-it no-matter-what" mentality that makes me keep a notepad and pen next to my bed at night and another in my back pocket during the day. I knew there would be twists and turns in the road, and I was not disappointed. It was all part of the adventure.
We were motivated by the children whose love encouraged us everyday we arrived at the project. We carry what materials we need to our several projects in backpacks, which can get quite heavy. They suddenly lighten as the children come running up to us calling out to us and holding our hands as we climb the last part of the mountainside. Smiles and love make every burden lighter.
The poverty, desperate needs and obvious lack of even the basic tools of living like soap, water, decent shoes and in many cases electricity, blankets to stay warm at night and a balanced diet will keep me here as long as I possibly can. Probably forever. We are progressing. We are beating back the insidious enemies that destroy lives, hunger, ignorance, desperation and racism. There was another thing I had to do. I had to "take out the trash".
I love Peru and consider it my home, I love the people who are happy to see me everyday and the fact I haven't had to shovel snow to find my car in years makes me a very happy man. Of course no life anywhere is exactly a Utopia. Peru is no exception.
Upon my arrival, the first NGO that I volunteered with was so far afoul from their expressed core values that I had to call it out. I learned that you don't have to tell bad people that they are bad, they know it, they will however villify you for pointing it out. I saw everything that an NGO and volunteers should never be. I left. Upon starting my own NGO to "do it right or not at all", I was saddled by locals who wanted to "volunteer" and I got a second dose of a bad thing. If I was ever going to give up, that was the time. Instead I took appropriate action and continued virtually alone for awhile.
Then volunteers began to hear about what I was doing and joined me. Lyndsey, Rebecca, Chris, William, Sarah and Katherine, to name a few. Each one added a unique quality to the shaping of the project. I am grateful for their participation and help. We also had sponsors and donors who supported us, some from their own countries, some visiting us and saw the project firsthand in action. I am just as grateful to them as the hands-on volunteers for their vital contribution to our continued success.
More children came, more groups of the project developed. It was happening. It was and is, wonderful. Still nagging me in the back of my mind was the fact that I could have done so much more in a shorter amount of time had my first year not be so dramatically filled with "user, liars and losers", as I began to refer to them. What I needed to realize was that I was "financing the past". Every minute spent thinking about how bad it was distracted me from how thinking about how good it is and how great it could be. I had to mentally and emotionally "take out the trash". It was a supreme effort and with the help of some incredibly enlightened people, I jettisoned the things that I kept recalling. I relieved myself of the burden of their misdeeds, I let go of the feeling that if I didn't "remember the past I was destined to relived it", as one philosopher said.
There was one more step. To forgive them, not because they deserved it, or even asked to be forgiven, but that it stood between me and my goals which I considered far more important. Like a hot air balloon that is only held down by sandbags, I released myself from my own self imposed burdens and began to soar, so to speak. The project took off. My comments on Facebook began to reflect my focus on the success and expansion of our project. We far surpassed those that tried to hold us back. A much stronger focus is possible when you rid yourself of distractions.
We are about to embark on several programs that will further develop our project, for the benefit of the children and the community of Huaraz. The Second Annual Huaraz Benefit Chess Tournament will be held later this year, a museum exhibit of the childrens' art work will be displayed, a short film project is in the works, The United States Embassy has been in contact and asked for our participation to develop a mutually beneficial program. We initiated the "Haz lo Correcto-Do the Right Thing" project which has been a city-wide success to raise awareness for the need of self respect and respect for everyone in the community, with the assistance and support of the mayor, Vladimir Meza and the director of Tourism Benkelo Morales. We have been asked to expand the project to other communities as well. A community center at Secsapampa was fully renovated for us and at a recent community meeting, Changes for New Hope was recognized by the community and applauded for the continued work we are doing with the children and families there. Efforts to grow chia salvia-L at our altitude, upon success, will resolve hunger by enhancing the foods it is added to and slow digestion to end hunger. Plans are underway to develop self-sufficiency projects within the communities to raise the families out of poverty. And finally, an essay contest at a local educational institute will further promote the concept of what it means to do the right thing.
Some of these things are goals, some are effective projects in action currently. Perhaps it will impact and positively affect the lives of thousands of people. One thing is for sure. Probably none of these things would have been possible had I not forgiven, rose above the negative circumstances that were holding me back and let go so that our fullest potential could unfold in front of us as it is doing now.
This is a personal essay, however, if it helps one of you reading it, to release what is holding you back, it was well worth the time to write it. We can all be humanitarians and make huge changes in the parts of the world that we can touch. Wonderful positive changes, if we first learn how to "take out the trash". Peace, siempre~~ Jim Killon