Changes for New Hope
“I remember this little girl that humbly and
curiously asked me where do I come from. Europe I replied. She then kindly asked
to take more photographs of her, wondering whether I would take them back to
Europe. I played and told her stories from Transylvania. I think she enjoyed my
company because when I left she couldn’t stop hugging me. This truly was a very
emotional moment for both of us.”
After returning from Huayhuash we spent one day with
Changes for New Hope. This is an
organization situated in Huaraz, preoccupied with
improving the lives of the poor and underprivileged children and their families
in the Peruvian Andes. Through the dedication of Mr Jim Killon, the founder and
president of the organization, along with volunteers and supporters worldwide,
Changes for New Hope aims to help families living in poverty to become
self-sufficient, to develop opportunities for children to reach their fullest
potential and to enhance the level of respect, self-esteem and community
awareness. We met
Jim at Caroline Lodging, a hostel where we stayed while being in Huaraz. Jim
invited us to see some of the children he works with, not very far from the
hostel in an area known as Challua. The area is pretty much situated in the Rio
Santa floodplain and the adobe buildings where the children and their families
live lack electricity, continuous running water and basic sanitation. The
average age interval was between 4 and 12 years old. We were surprised to be
greeted with applauses by the children. They were very happy to see us and
showed great interest in our cameras and tripods. We played with Lego, and
communicated with the children, showing them where we come from on the plastic
Earth as well as photographs from the places we’ve explored so far in Peru.
We’ve also photographed and video recorded every activity observed during our
visit focusing more on the children. I was particularly impressed by some of the
their humble and mannerly behaviour but also their signs of depression and low
self-esteem. Very intelligent, they asked perceptive questions about us. The
main objective of the organization is to educate the children and eliminate
desperation and depression that exists amongst them. Through
art projects, health awareness, nutrition and psychological
assistance, coping skills and support from people all around the
world, these children can become the leaders of tomorrow. “Haz lo
correcto” or do the right thing, respect everyone, respect yourself is their
By Sergui Jiduc
Our friend Sergui and his team were filming as photojournalist/explorers for National Geographic while in Peru. He is still in contact with us, supports our project and we look forward to the final production of the National Geographic Special that he and his team were kind enough to include us in.
When people ask about giving a donation to this project they are sometimes amazed when I say, ¨Thank you but no.¨ It is not because we do not need support of every conceivable kind to continue our work here in the Peruvian Andes with the children. Much to the contrary, but it is equally important that the sponsor feels an attachment to our project and will be receiving something special, as well as the children, by way of their contribution. It is what made Changes for New Hope more than a job for me, more than a project while I am in Peru but I intended this to be my life´s work. It´s success and progress I consider my personal victory as well.
I gave nothing to the project however I shared everything I had from a place within my heart that grew larger and stronger everytime I trekked up the side of a mountain to meet with the children. It is that incredible feeling of love and ´compassion in action´ that I ask sponsors, donors and volunteers to find through our project and the children.
Sharing means that a part of you joins us, becomes one with our labor of love here and your enhanced compassion begins to touch many other parts of your life.
Every volunteer that has joined us with an attitude of sharing has found this to be absolutely true. They tell me at their farewell dinner that this experience has opened something within them that they never experienced before. It is an awareness that you can not get by saying, ¨I already gave at the office.¨
Don´t get me wrong, donations, whether cash or materials or postcards with messages of hope are all needed and deeply appreciated. We say thank you as often as possible through emails, letters and artwork made by the children and some sponsors have been surprised to find a beautiful alpaca sweater waiting for them in their mailbox.
As you shift your thinking to a sharing mode, you will find that you never ¨gave away your money¨, but that a part of you came with it, you shared it with a project full of children that are yours now too.
When you look in the mirror and feel absolutely great about who you see looking back, you will know exactly what I mean.
**** Siempre mis amigos
Boots on the ground in Huaraz Peru
Jim and a warm friend in the Andes
In 1913 at the annual running of the Kentucky Derby throughbred race, a most amazing thing happened. Roscoe Goose rode his throughbred Donerail, with 91-1 odds against them, to victory. It was the greatest longshot victory in the history of the race.
You may be asking yourself, ¨What does a horse race in Kentucky in 1913 have to do with Changes for New Hope in the Peruvian Andes?¨ Well, nothing really, with one small exception. We both grabbed onto a seemingly impossible challenge and with tenacity and determination, overcame every obstacle to achieve an initially elusive success.
There are a few differences though. While Roscoe and his noble throughbred had a finish line to cross, at Changes for New Hope, we have no finish line. I came to Peru with the intention of developing a humanitarian project that would benefit children living in desperate conditions and was well aware that I only needed a one way plane ticket. With just my own savings, a plan and no idea how I was going to do it, I propped up my tenacity with biographies of people like the Wright brothers who, with no more than I had going for them, built an airplane.
Now, anyone can become a ¨one hit wonder¨. If this project was going to simply be an event or an experiment, I could be home before anyone knew I was gone. That wasn´t the plan. This was to be and now is a long term project. One that I am currently preparing to long outlive me. After a few years of careful steps and sorting out what worked and what didn´t, we had grown from one small group of children to a second, then a third and finally a fourth. We maintained the children who were eager to learn and develop themselves. Slowly, as we began showing a track record of new successes, volunteers began arriving, Peruvian and international alike. Like the children, they shared the vision, met the challenges and stood beside me to solidify our goals and plans. Then a few sponsors appeared on our horizon. A few contributors made donations and watched as we grew, carefully into our next phase. But people are reasonably cautious as well they should be. Was our developing success a lightning strike of some incredible luck or had our tenacity, patience and determination to make this compassionate project a reality, unfolded as we planned? If you said the later, you would be right. But there is one question that everybody is asking. . . .
Will They Still Be Here A Year From Now And Beyond?
A fair question and one that needs to be answered with our current and future credibility in mind. Allow me to respond to the query this way, with each passing year, Changes for New Hope expands into new areas within the Huaraz community, but cautiously so as not to deplete our resources. For example, our recent Art Exhibition in the local museum where the children and volunteer´s art was shown was courtesy of the museum director. The reception and materials cost were minimal and much was donated. Our Sports Day event last year was a huge success and brought out many local businesses and families who donated food, water, materials and supplies to make it happen. The Annual Huaraz Benefit Chess Tournaments were sponsored by businesses in Huaraz in exchange for having their names and logos advertised as suporters at the tournaments. The citywide ¨Haz lo Correcto- Do the Right Thing¨campaign which the local press applauded as a success in the betterment of the community spirit of Huaraz was accomplished with local television press conferences and 1000 posters and 5000 stickers distributed throughout Huaraz, compliments of his honor, the mayor of Huaraz, Vladimir Meza and the Director of Tourism, Benquelo Morales. In short, we get a lot of ¨bang for the buck¨. This frees up our funds to be used directly on the children's various needs, supplies and fruits. Its not all about the money, but it isn´t at all about the money. We just do all we can to assure that we won´t fail due to a depletion of funds. This was the first bricks in building our foundation.
There is no shortage of children that need our help. Currently we have about seventy children that we meet with in four groups each week. Two of us are regular, daily faces that they see with shorter term volunteers who join us from a few days to a few months at a time. Over forty five visitor/volunteers have joined us in the past few months which came from the hostel where I currently live. It is our hope that in future years, older children who we have helped will be able to step into the role of mentor and teach the younger children how to become what they now are.
The intrinsic passion of the project within us does not diminish with time, in fact it increases like a bonfire that became all consuming. When we top the mountainside of Secsapampa for example, and smiling children come running toward us shouting our names, hugging us, we just know that we can not ever run out of tomorrows here. We are dug in here, we are a part of their community even though I am a ¨gringo¨from the United States and they are the indiginous Quechua people of the Peruvian Andes. These are some of the developments that make me most proud.
Having said that, while we may not be a Red Cross International, or a United Nations Humanitarian Aid team, one thing is for sure; just like the 91-1 odds that Roscoe Goose and Donerail faced in the 1913 Kentucky Derby, those who bet on them came out winners. We are a small NGO, for now. We measure twice and cut once. As we now enter our fourth year of operations, we are stronger now than ever before. We have the focus as well as the vision to take this project forward to reach many more children that need us while strengthening our present groups.
Your support for Changes for New Hope can help us reach out in those new directions, touch parts of the community that have been neglected by everyone else and give you the personal joy and deep satisfaction that we now share with those who we are helping and who are helping us. Whether you choose to join us by making a contribution, become a volunteer, send us a postcard which we share with the children or just follow us on Facebook, you will become part of a team that has found a purpose, a cause, that is making a difference in the lives of children that would never have had a chance in life any other way. We can all be winners.
Changes for New Hope
Volunteering with your eyes wide open........
Volunteering in countries and with projects that help the disadvantaged and destitute is a noble and admirable pursuit. Thousands of young people from all walks of life set aside a few ...weeks or months of their lives to visit a project somewhere usually in a 3rd world country for the purpose of making the world a better place. And if it was just that easy we would all be very happy campers.
As a founder and president of an NGO in Peru, Changes for New Hope, (www.changesfornewhope.org) I have seen both sides of volunteering. I have been a volunteer when I first came to Peru, worked with an NGO that was ...¨less than I expected.¨ Considering that each volunteer was paying $500 a month, one was hard pressed to determine if the NGO existed for the benefit of the children or for ulterior motivations. I left after just four months. Of course, there are good and bad in every avenue of life.
The flip side of volunteering can be just as disturbing. Imagine setting up an NGO in the Peruvian Andes that is designed to help children in unimaginable destitution. It is what I did with my own life savings because I believe that this project was important enough to merit my full time, attention and support. Not to throw flowers at myself but I live, eat and breathe Changes for New Hope. To make this project the success it should be, it will take more help, in short, volunteers. Serious inquiries only.
While having volunteers arrive is simply a matter of asking for them, the issue comes in the form of volunteers who are...shall we say .. less that fully committed to the project. Everyone has a great first week. It is important to remember that the second week and beyond is just as urgent for you to be there. There will be distractions of every sort from exciting adventures that will last a week away from the project to the Siren´s Calls. A temptation that is too great to resist for some.
Volunteering is a responsibility. The first of which is to make sure that the NGO or project you are considering is genuine and focused on its stated objectives. The second responsibility is to be the kind of volunteer that the project will remember as well as the children and staff that you came to help. Treat it as you would a well paying job. Be on time. Make yourself as valuable to the project as you possibly can be. Support its objectives. You will get out of your volunteering experience what you put into it. Nothing more and nothing less. The attitude that you approach the opportunity is extremely important. There will most likely be some sort of volunteer fees which helps to keep the project running. NGOs with exorbitant fees should be a red flag to you. Fair is a two way street. Pay the fees and be glad that you can help the project this way as well.
Your tourism part of your journey, and there should definately be a time to explore the country and culture you are in, should commence either before or after your time volunteering. When people are counting on you, you need to be there everyday for them.
Lastly, remember to stay in touch with the project after you have ended your time with them. You are not going to change the world in the month that you are there, but you can share your story, your experience and the project with others on your social websites that you belong to. This is called Virtual Volunteering. That reach is far greater than the project could do on its own. Support it financially if you can. Send a letter every so often to let them know you still fondly remember the time you spent there. You went there to do humanitarian work. Be a humanitarian and continue to make the world a better place.
It is a never ending adventure if it is your focus. And it is the most rewarding work that I could ever recommend to anyone. I know, I have been here for years doing it and I never plan on leaving Changes for New Hope, Peru or the deep feeling of purpose that this life has given me.
"How many blankets are on your bed?" I asked the children of Changes for New Hope. In the Peruvians Andes at 3000 meters every night is cold, when the wind blows across the unheated adobe houses, it is even colder. I was surprised at their responses. "One, two maybe three" Some children wet the bed at night making blankets unbearable to sleep under. I remember my Boy Scout days camping out in the wide open nights. One thing I remember well is how miserable it is to shiver in the cold of the night. That was a week long camping trip. For these children it is every night, all year round.
Changes for New Hope was not developed simply to scratch the surface of the needs of children living in such destitution. Helping them with their homework isn't nearly enough. A quick meal and a hug is anemic. We need to meet the needs of the children on every level we possibly can and this is one more problem that needed solved. Our "Behind-the Scenes Man" Karl, found 'Space Blankets'.
Space blankets are very thin, thermal barriers that trap body heat from escaping as the children lay in bed. Developed by NASA for astronauts, if it worked on the moon (or the Arizona desert?) it should work in the cold Peruvian Andean nights.
AND IT DOES!!!!! Every child in our project is either using one now or about to receive one. Those using them tell me that it is keeping them warm, less sniffling and coughing from the cold at night and they are sleeping well. Overly tired children can not study well in school, everything is affected in their young lives if they can nit sleep at night.
Space blankets are available online. They are about 3 to 5 dollars USD and lightweight so shipping costs are not an issue. It is the cheapest and most effective way to help those we care about who need our help in s many ways. So far, our "Virtual Volunteers" have provided us with over 100 so each of our children can be sleeping under a space blanket.
Knowing that they are better off makes me sleep at night a whole lot better myself. ~~ Siempre, ~~~ Jim Killon
Recently, I was engaged in a conversation with someone I had known many years ago, lost contact with and was reconnected to him. He asked what I was up to these days. Of course that ignited a conversation about this project, what I was doing in Peru with the children of Changes for New Hope and the progress we are making with them.
Having known him from a church group years ago his comment was marinated with christian accolades and admiration that I was doing a good work for the Lord. The fuse was lit. As patiently as I could, I explained that this is a work that needed to be done. There are children here in the Peruvian Andes lacking the very basics of what was necessary to maintain a healthy or normal life. It did not require a devout man of incredible faith nor a "beam of light from above" to move any person with an ounce of compassion to come to the aid of these children. It was within my power to come here and start a project to help them and I did.
I challenged his accolades by saying that those individuals that we both knew in the church, himself included, who knew of this project, have done nothing more than "pray for us". While the sentiment is appreciated, it is severely anemic when considering the degree of human suffering being endured by these children who lack food medicines, a warm place to sleep, educational inequities and racism. I was well aware that the people I was referring to had substaintial means and an abundance of material wealth, yet were not moved to do more than bow their heads and pray. I posed the question, "Do you know what happens to a hungry child when all you do is pray for them? They will die of hunger."
While I would never denigrate anyone for their sincere religious beliefs, I take personal exception to those who would use that same religion as a means to abort the very tennants of their religion. Case in pont, my friend advised me of the saying of Jesus, "The poor you shall have always." He was not the first to use this verse with me. In fact he was about the fifth "christian" to use the Bible to step away from following the concepts that the Bible teaches. The reasoning is that there will always be poor people, therefore you can not help them all. True enough, but does that mean that we should not help any poor people? Using that same line of thinking, if doctors can not cure every disease, perhaps they should not cure any diseases. I did not care to debate the issue with him. I believe that what you do with what is yours is your own business. No excuses are necessary. Conversely, many christian friends of very limited means have helped this project immensely by putting their faith and compassion into action in many different ways as they were able. I am filled with sincere gratitude for that.
I recently read a quote made by talk show personality Stephen Colbert. He said, ´´ If this is going to be a christian nation that doesn´t help the poor, either we have to pretend that Jesus was just as selfish as we are, or we´ve got to acknowledge that he commanded us to love the poor and serve the needy without condition and then admit that we just don´t want to do it.¨
There are some wonderful people around this globe of every walk of life, belief and conviction who have touched the lives of the children of this project, providing them with shoes, clothing, medicine, food and milk, vitamins, school materials and even space blankets. Our hats off to those volunteers who selflessly came to Peru to be a hands on help side by side with me. I agree, the poor we will always have. It is a heartwarming fact though, that there are many many people out there who will do whatever it takes to make sure one less child goes to bed hungry tonight. -- Jim Killon