Ireland is and always has been a great country
The Wirld caught up with John and asked him a few more questions in relation to Help Them Hope and how the whole project came about.
Iain: Hi John. Firstly could you tell us a little bit about your background and why you decided to make the big move to Peru?
John: Sure. My name is John Whelan, from Carlow. I studied Business and Marketing at I.T Carlow and am the youngest of three sons. Growing up my parents were highly involved in community work back home, so that would be where it started. A number of years later, after spending a year in Oz, I travelled back home through Cambodia. After seeing the atrocities left behind from the Pol Plot regime I decided that the next time I went I wanted to do some charity work.
I came to Peru for three weeks in January 2007 to volunteer. I absolutely loved it and stayed for three months. I returned again to Peru in December 2008 for three weeks and ended up staying for seven months! Finally I moved to Peru in 2009, got married and started Help Them HOPE. I left Ireland not because of the economy but for ‘true love’.
Iain: So where exactly did the idea of Help them Hope come from?
John: While I was volunteering at www.villalapazfoundation.org I saw a great need for the people I was helping. I saw the need of education, the need for opportunity and the need for young people with disabilities and illnesses to be more Independent. From that I started Help Them HOPE.
Iain: Do you believe that the Irish sense of community had a lot to do with your decision to set up the charity?
John: Yes of course, from my family and from living in Carlow.
Iain: Have you seen many similarities between the Peruvian people and Irish people in terms of their community spirit and great efforts towards charities?
John: No not really. One thing I miss here is the lack of the community in Lima. There is a great lack of trust among Limeaños. In terms of giving, many communities in Lima do hold small fundraisers to help someone from their neighbourhood but in general their level of giving is very low. Many say it’s just not part of their culture.
Iain: Back to Ireland, what do you miss most about home?
John: I’ve been travelling since 2001 so I’ve got over missing the small things but I miss: family, friends, the rolling green fields and of course the craic.
Iain: Do you ever foresee yourself returning home one day?
John: Yes of course. Ireland is and always has been a great country. To rule out returning would be just foolish.
Iain: And finally, what’s next for Help them HOPE?
John: Well we are currently working on our Strategy 2014-2019. Some plans are to have the first Independent Living Centre in Peru, to create a leadership Institute for people with disabilities and to replicate our courses across Peru. So watch this space.
Iain: Great stuff and all the best for yourself and Help Them HOPE
You can find more information on Help Them HOPE on their website www.helpthemhope.org