After the first night of meeting him, I understood why the family we were living with handed him the ´crazy´ in front of his name. Not crazy as in psychopath or lunatic, or out of his mind but crazy as in a one in a million who dropped his life in the United States to come to Peru and just do his best with what he could, no questions asked. While volunteering in a few different places it is always nice to get to know the people you are working with and to build relationships with the locals... but then the inevitable comes and its time to go and move on. The most fantastic thing about Jim and Changes For New Hope is that he is permanent. Working with kids in the Andes who want to be there and spend time with him. Before actually going out and spending a day with Jim I was told that he has little groups of kids to which he goes to see a couple times a week and teaches some English, gives them fruit, plays some games.. the usual stuff. Not only does Changes for New Hope do all of this but it is done in such a way that the kids are learning how to live, how to grow into proper, stable, polite human beings, as well as learning about basic hygiene such as washing your hands, brushing teeth etc.. This all sounds so basic but when kids grow up with not a whole lot besides some raggedy old shoes, a few t shirts and a pair of pants or two, maybe some rice and/or potatoes a day with parents who either work around the clock or not at all and a school system that is pretty much good for just saying you went to school, its hard to grow into a successful adult. Now dont get me wrong, I´m not saying cycles are never broken, however, its much much easier done when kids have not only a support system, but a mentor and thats exactly what Jim is. Walking uphill to the first group I was able to visit with him within 10 minutes there were countless hello´s, how are you´s, how is the family, do you need anything. Not only with the kids he works with but with people in the community as well. As we get closer to the ¨classroom¨, a room with a couch and a whiteboard, kids run past us, towards us, screaming ¨Jim, Jim!¨. That is when I knew he was the real deal. Kids are so excited to learn little English words such as colors, body parts etc. And though they wouldn´t be able to hold up any sort of conversation in English they have the desire and the want to learn anything and everything because its fun. Not only does he teach, he stimulates their minds by colouring with them, playing games, doing other crafts such as taking something as simple as TINFOIL and making masks. One of my favorite moments working with Jim was when we were walking a boy named John home and his mom is so grateful for Jim and loves him so much she feeds him lunch every Saturday after class. We went into his house which consists of tarp walls, dirt floors, a fridge that doesnt work and a queen size bed for the family of 4, and John´s family was so welcoming, so happy, sat us down in their house and gave us a heaping bowl of lunch. No matter how little these people have they always have a little extra to give, which is the exact way that Jim has been living his life. One more day with Jim sticks out in my mind, we were in another area a little further away and it was raining pretty good. To get to the place where class is held we have to walk quite a ways up on a dirt trail. Some kids who live on the bottom of the trail walked up with us in nothing but flip flops that were either too small, broken, or both and they climbed all the way up there in mud, rain, cold. Had I not seen what I´ve seen with these kids I would have been complaining in my boots and warm rain coat. That is how much they love spending time with Jim, and when Jim can, he replaces those shoes for something that fits, or covers their toes. When we got up to the top there was already a whole group of kids patiently waiting for the arrival of their favorite mentor, teacher and friend. Changes for New Hope is not a huge organization, but somehow it manages to carry out actions as big if not bigger than some of these world wide organizations we hear of.
Submitted by Marlie Ferron, Ottawa Canada