My project started in 2005. Although I had made it to several continents shearing sheep, I really had never seen poverty. I had always wanted to do some charity work, and when an opportunity came, I was there.
I was recommended by a Priest from Fargo, North Dakota, to go to northern Peru, to the city of Chimbote where there was a mission he was familiar with. I wanted to make a donation, and fund a project, but wanted to see more before I did that.
I had worked and traveled to several countries where English was not the primary language, and I got along fine. But later when I arrived Lima, Peru I was very surprised. Wow. It was difficult, and perhaps somewhat dangerous considering I had a significant amount of cash on me. I made it to a hotel and on the bus in the morning. Upon arriving the town of Chimbote, I was very happy to see someone speaking English at the mission.
It was an eye opening experience, and hard for me to comprehend what I was seeing. Not only a different culture, but also the poverty. When I saw the houses, I thought, thank God they do not have winter. Although these people did not have money, I still saw hope and happiness in their eyes.
I have always believed the saying, “Feed someone a fish, and they have fish for a day. Teach someone to fish, and they have fish every day.” My desire was to help the young people get an education, so they can later help themselves.
My first project was on a school. I did work in bathrooms, a cement floor in some classrooms, and paid for some textbooks. Although there was plenty of labor with their high unemployment, I not only funded the projects, but worked with them.
After a fire, I also funded and helped build some houses, or what I would call a straw shack. After five weeks passed, I was heading home. Of all the working trips I have taken, This one was the most different, and the one that would change my life forever.
After arriving home, never did a day go by without thoughts of my experience. I was planning a second trip the next year. Close to the time of departure, I had decided to build a cafeteria. I felt the children would not learn as well if they were hungry.
Working with the mission, we had it set up so that anyone could eat there, but the able bodied people needed to either pay or do some work for the mission in exchange for food. This trip I did not stay as long, and the cafeteria was still under construction when I left. I also started to sponsor a student, Diana, at the local university. I chose Diana because although unemployment was high, she was able to find a job, and always be working.
Two years had passed until I returned as a newly wed, with my wife Sara to see how everything was going, and to visit my student. I was pleasantly surprised with the cafeteria after completion, and with the progress of my student. Diana was working towards a law degree. With Sara fluent in Spanish, it was a very good trip. I was able to see more and visit with more people. We gained confidence in our student, Diana, and began to sponsor her without going through the mission. We continued frequent communication with Diana for the next five years, and planned to return for graduation.
In August of 2013, Sara and I returned to watch Diana receive her degree. She was a good student, and never let us down. As a student, she worked for an attorney and later worked as an attorney. My intention was to find another student to sponsor, but Diana, who is now working, asked if she could get help to get her masters degree. She said she could come up with about 50% of the funds from her job, wanted me to help with the rest. I was happy to accept her offer. If she is willing to work, and put her own money into education, I feel she will continue to be a reliable student.
It is gratifying to see this person, who was willing to work for any wage, now have a degree as an attorney, and be making eight times the wage of when I first started to sponsor her. She has asked several times, how she could repay me for what I have done, and I was firm when I told her it is now her responsibility to help her younger siblings get an education, and look after her mother and grandmother.
I still keep in contact with Diana. She has never let me down. She, as well as her family, have been very grateful for what I did for her. As for me, I am happy with the end result, and will do another project another time.