December 13, 2013

Many Hands With Perseverance

By Bridget Schirripa
Special to GoHolyCross.com

Members of the men's rowing team sophomore Jon Bachmann (San Francisco, Calif.) and junior Eddie Ryan (Pasadena, Calif.) know the definition of perseverance and team work. On the water the two push each other and teammates to reach new levels of fitness unimaginable for most people. Off the water, the two carry this commitment, traveling to Peru to build a community center and collect census data with their newly formed non-profit Many Hands.

After traveling to Chiclayo, Peru many times, Ryan, a dual citizen, decided to take steps to counteract the immense poverty of this area. In 2012, Ryan and his roommate Phil McNamara applied for a Davis Peace Grant and received the $10,000 to go to Chiclayo and begin construction on a communal center while also collecting data. In May, the two registered for 501(c)(3) status, forming the non-profit Many Hands. Shortly after Bachmann joined the group. 

Many Hands is a unique organization with a distinct goal of working with local impoverished residents to discover solutions to strengthen their communities. The visit to Chiclayo represents the program's first endeavor to fulfill this goal. Last summer they began construction on the area's first community center. The city of Chiclayo consists of many "pueblo jovenes," the name given to the shantytowns where mostly indigenous Peruvians live. These areas lack well-constructed homes and running water, among other basics. The three worked with the locals to build the center which will serve as the headquarters for their other projects, as well as a local daycare. Along with the community center, they also worked on collecting economic and social census data, in order to gain more information on the town's situation.

Bachmann and Ryan collecting census data

The work in Chiclayo was not easy, as Bachmann explained, "The most difficult part was organizing our project on a day to day basis. We had a ton to do during our limited time in Chiclayo. Making sure we were efficient with that time while simultaneously keeping the local people we were working with in the loop was a challenge." Although they have set out to achieve a difficult task, their efforts are nonetheless rewarding stated Bachmann, "Enabling others to rely less on individuals like us and succeed on their own has been the most rewarding aspect of our work."

To achieve their goals in a small amount of time, both Ryan and Bachmann needed focus and hard work, two skills they have learned on the water. They faced many challenges this summer and even though giving up would have been much easier the two persevered through these difficulties, thus taking the first steps in working with the community. Rowing is a grueling sport, and to be successful a rower must learn how to push through the pain and frustration. Meeting some problems in Peru, Bachmann and Ryan used the focus, hard work and perseverance they learned from rowing to further their work in times of difficulty. Looking to the examples of rowing Bachmann noted, "Rowing has showed me how hard I can actually work and that there is always more to give. It also forced me to be self-disciplined and organized…I definitely think Eddie and I worked as hard as we did partly because of rowing conditioning us to do so." Ryan too also mentioned the significance of the sport saying, "Rowing has taught me the importance of hard work. We approached each initiative like we approach a race."

Crucial also is their ability to stay in shape over the summer for the fall rowing season. While most of their teammates conditioned over the summer by either rowing or spending hours in a gym, Bachmann and Ryan had to be a little more creative. It took great discipline to wake up at 6:00 a.m. every morning to go for a run, and then work the long hours of the day. When describing their daily activities Bachmann explained, "We would usually wake up early and run at 6:00 a.m. in order to keep in shape for rowing. After we would eat breakfast then get a taxi to the town. There we would either conduct the census, work on construction or spend time with locals."

Their work in Chiclayo is just getting started and the two plan on traveling back during the winter break to further construction on the center and gather more census data. Much like rowing has taught them lessons that they carry into other areas, their time in Peru has also given them valuable experiences. For Ryan, working in Peru allowed him to "gain a better understanding of the common ties bringing all human beings together." Similarly, Bachmann described, "I think the most important things I learned are the importance of having local collaborators that are invested as much as you are and how to work with people from different cultures," noting the importance of team work in order to achieve a goal. The teammates have worked hard, pushing each other to remain focused, organized and strong while working with the residents of Chiclayo to begin the first steps in helping to establish a stronger community.

To view a photo gallery go here.

For more information check out the Many Hands website here.