James, a man out of the ordinary
Interview with Dorothée, co-author of "Another world is possible" (records)

When meeting James for the first time, I was struck by the warmth and serenity that he conveys. Yet, his story is not an easy one. An orphan at a very early age, James grew up in the streets and then in an orphanage. The isolation and the poor teaching of the educators in the institution in which he found himself left him with painful memories. He often ran away, preferring the hard law of the streets to the anonymity and the precarious living conditions of the orphanage.

Insecurity and poverty were his daily life for many years. And then one day, he found the strength and courage to change his life when he met a priest who was able to show him the love and confidence he had always lacked. After that, he began to be seriously interested in studying.

Hard work eventually led James to the university where he studied social sciences. He decided to write his thesis on children and adolescents living on their own in South India. With a few friends, he walked the streets to meet young people struggling to survive. He quickly rediscovered a world in which children and adolescents are street vendors, shoeshine boys, thieves, beggars… and where the daily preoccupation is to find how to fill your stomach and sleep without being attacked.

After passing his exams brilliantly, James could have found a good job and left this universe, but walking in the streets of Madurai, he met these children again. Nothing had changed for them. Their life in the streets was the same. He felt he could not abandon them. James decided to devote his life to children in distress and create an association for them.

It remained to give it a name. The young people found it: NANBAN, which means "friend" in Tamil. Friend is a word that fits James particularly well. With his welcoming and frank smile, he is always ready to listen, to understand without judgment and to love unconditionally.

When asked why he refers to resilience in most of his programs, he answers with some shyness: "I believe that I am a living example of what resilience [1] can achieve!"

Footnotes

[1] According to Boris Cyrulnik, resilience is the capacity to grow even in environments that should be destructive.