Volunteer feature – Bob Hurley

Meet Loyal Hopeworks Volunteer, Bob Hurley

I was born in Boston, graduated from the College of the Holy Cross with a B.A. in History and  received an MA in Political Science from American University.  I’ve been married to my beautiful wife, Anne for 50 years come September 3rd.  I have two daughters, Meghan and Rebecca, and three grandsons, Jacob 15, Finn 8 and Declan 5.  I spent most of my career in medical publishing in NYC and Philadelphia.

I have always been interested in social justice, but between career and family, never did anything about it.  Then about ten years ago, I learned about Fr. Jeff Putthoff and his work at Hopeworks and realized that I needed to walk the walk instead of talking the talk.  So, I came in to see what I could do to contribute.  I was still working at the time, but my position allowed me to carve out one morning a week to volunteer.  

So, it began.  I came to Hopeworks faithfully one morning a week for the next six years until I retired at 72, then increased to two mornings a week.  So, why do I come?  I initially thought I was coming here to teach about literacy, but what I quickly found is that I really come here to learn about life, about youth, many of whom have learned to survive trauma filled lives.  Their life experience is far different from mine, but their dreams are extraordinarily similar to mine and my childrens’.  I do teach what I know about English and Math (as far I can), or whatever is asked of me. In the end I receive far more than I give.  I was here before the transition to Sanctuary and Trauma Based Care and was able to see how valuable that change was in helping youth.  The understanding of how trauma can lead to behavior that while beneficial for immediate survival, is detrimental to the ability to thrive, was  transformative for the youth and the organization.  Such understanding helps the youth in attaining and keeping a job and in building a sustainable future.

For the past two years, I have had the privilege of going on a trip to Cuernavaca, Mexico with a small group of youth and staff, where we stay with families in Serro, a poor community outside of Cuernavaca.  While there is a service component to the trip, we also experience living with families who are poorer than those in Camden.   The families are extraordinarily warm and generous and it is amazing to see how the experience allows the youth to become more open and generous.  The hope is that the youth will be transformed in some small way and that they will bring that experience back to the Camden community.

Running a program like Hopeworks is a high wire experience.  The challenges are enormous and the staff has to be open, flexible, caring, determined, and intelligent, because each youth presents a different history and a different challenge.  I have been fortunate to work with excellent Literacy Directors, like Dana and Dannyelle, who have not only helped me become more effective, but have also gone the extra mile to reach out to every youth no matter what their problems.  I have enjoyed every day here.