Theo Hieronymus: You just realize how lucky you are

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Theo Hieronymus

Above, junior Theo Hieronymus treks through Peru as a part of WMS social studies teacher Daniel Fernandez's annual trip. During these trips, Fernandez and the rest of the travelers visit archaeological sites and give school supplies to a school in rural Atuen, Peru. After traveling with the group in 2007 and 2008, Hieronymus started the Loose Change program with his mother.

The rain beat down on junior Theo Hieronymus as he emerged over a ledge in the Andes Mountains of Peru and gazed for the second time at the village of Atuen. After pausing from his exhausting trek, Hieronymus flung his pack back over his shoulder and continued on his mission to deliver supplies to an underprivileged school buried in the rural Andes.

Junior Theo Hieronymus has worked to bring supplies to a school in Atuen after going to Peru in 2007 and 2008 as part of a trip led by middle school social studies teacher Daniel Fernandez.

These trips, among others led by Fernandez, had the purpose of delivering supplies to a rural school in Atuen while investigating Incan ruins through archeology.

“[The archeology and the trip] always seemed really cool. I was always interested,” Hieronymus said. “Originally, I was most excited about the archeology. A highlight of the first trip was when we explored the ruins of an Incan temple by the sea. We also hiked to an Incan graveyard.”

After the archeology portion of the trip, the focus shifted to delivering school supplies to children in Atuen. Because Atuen is a small village in the Andes Mountains of Northeastern Peru, the travelers had to endure a grueling hike to reach the school.

“[The hike] was one of the hardest things I’ve done. We literally went to the end of the road and then kept going,” Hieronymus said.

During Hieronymus’s 2008 visit to Atuen, this hike was accompanied by nonstop rain. Nonetheless, the work was for a worthy cause.

“The country was truly destitute with children digging through the trash for food,” Hieronymus said. “It was shocking when we went in [the school] to see that they had three books, a chalkboard and no chalk. Then we came in with five or six years of supplies. They were just flabbergasted,” Hieronymus said. “Us bringing and giving the supplies was a lot of work, but to them it was monumental. This was the most stuff they had ever seen.”

After his trips to Peru, Hieronymus knew he had found a worthy cause and decided to make a difference. In a joint effort with his mother, Hieronymus founded Loose Change, a program that funds Fernandez’s trips to aid efforts in Peru.

Loose Change is still working to fund trips and supplies for Peruvian schoolchildren. According to Hieronymous, so far this year, Loose Change has raised about $12,000 with another $2,000 to $3,000 collected but not yet counted.

“We went to a school that cost $15,000 to build, and then returned to a $70 million one,” Hieronymus said. “You just realize how lucky you are.”

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