Posted by: chocolatequilts | November 21, 2010

Vote for this Champion of Change

Finalist Bobby Hayes

Age: 51
Volunteers in: Saint John, New Brunswick
Category: CANADA Education, Community, Culture
Organizations: The Joshua Group

This volunteer is a top 10 finalist. Click here to vote for this volunteer now »

ABOUT THE CANDIDATE:
In Saint John, one man wages a war on behalf of the city’s street kids.

Bobby Hayes spends a lot of his time at Crack Corner. No, he’s not using. Hayes hangs out there because, sadly, the children he serves frequently find themselves at the intersection of Saint John, N.B.’s, infamous Crack Corner and Hooker Alley.

Not all the children Bobby (no one calls him Robert) Hayes helps are abused and neglected. But most are. Many come from a long line of addicts, street workers and convicts. Others are just plain poor. They have nowhere to go. No one to help them. Except Hayes.


Listen to a profile of Bobby Hayes
by CBC Radio reporter Sarah Trainor:

In the beginning, Hayes simply fed kids. He’d set up a barbecue in a local playground–near the end of the month when he knew welfare cheques were running out–and hand out hamburgers, for free. A city worker, Hayes didn’t have much to spare, but he figured the kids had less.

A few years later, in 1993, Hayes received permission to take over an abandoned church. Using his own money, he set up a kids’ club. There was no heat, but there was a roof–and a place to go for laughter, support, advice, food.

Hayes tells the story of a little girl he found crying, alone, on a street corner. “Her mother had died of a drug overdose. Her head was shaved because she had lice. I guess you could say things weren’t going so well for her.” Hayes could not, would not, leave her. He helped her find her grandmother and kept in constant touch. “She is now a fine young lady–but she got robbed of her childhood. And she’s one of many.”     Hayes’s organization, The Joshua Group, attempts to remedy that loss. Hayes does a lot more than feed hungry kids. He gives them a way out.

Every Sunday, while a couple of volunteers cook pancakes, Hayes criss-crosses the neighbourhood in a bus, looking for local kids who’d like a big breakfast. Then he offers them arts and crafts, sports and games. He frequently takes kids swimming, packing along donated soap and shampoo. “I call it bath day,” he says. Hayes has an arrangement with a local hairdresser who gives kids free haircuts. And no birthday goes uncelebrated. Hayes always throws a party. He even spends his own money to take teens out to dine in a restaurant, where they’ve never been before.

The church that The Joshua Group has called home for more than a decade has been sold and that means Hayes needs to find new digs. But the kids come first. His cell phone never stops ringing. And he always answers it. –Liza Finlay


HOW YOU CAN HELP:
FURTHER INFORMATION AND LINKS

To learn more about The Joshua Group,
visit their website at http://www.thejoshuagroup.ca

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