In 1959, a young man left Indiana to join the U.S. Air Force. Like many others before him, he planned to serve his country for 4 years and then return to his hometown.
But what he didn’t expect came in 1961. After about 2 years of being in the USAF, he was transferred to Clark Air Force Base in the Philippines. Immersed in a new country, a new culture and a world away from the familiarity of Indiana, he found himself on a path that would lead him to a lifetime of service.
Jim French fell in love in Angeles City, Pampanga where he met and married the woman who would change his life. After finishing his service at Clark, the couple eventually settled back in the US. This year, they celebrated their 57th wedding anniversary.
After years of being out of the service, Jim and his wife found themselves listening to a very passionate Bro. Tony Meloto, founder of Gawad Kalinga. “My wife and I joined Couples for Christ in August 1998. A few years later we heard of Gawad Kalinga.” says Jim.
While on a visit to California, Tony Meloto spoke at a Couples for Christ meeting about the growing poverty back home. After the talk, Jim thought of being of service again, but this time, to the Filipino people.
“In January 2003, we went on a GK sponsored tour of Luzon, Cebu, and Mindanao. We were so intrigued by what we saw.” Jim returned to California eager to share his experience and tell more people about GK. “I was able to get other CFC members to join me in working for the poor.”
The support for their fundraising activities was tremendous. It allowed them to build a village of 30 houses in Lanao Del Norte, Mindanao. “It was named JJ Fairfield Village.” stated Jim. Aside from building homes, Jim and his group also began sponsoring college students. “Working for the poor has been overwhelming. We still see so much on the media everyday of what needs to be done and how many suffer around the world.”
Jim wanted to continue raising funds for GK on a regular basis, so he needed to find an extra source of income. “I used to sell my recycling and put the funds in my grandchildren's savings accounts. When I got so passionate about GK, I thought to myself, they have a house, food, beds, loving family, and all that is needed. I thought, why not sell and give to GK. I gave the idea to several of my CFC friends and many of them joined me.”
Gawad Kalinga eventually became a non-profit organization independent of Couples for Christ. But, Jim’s commitment to the poor never waned. “My passion for those in need will never stop. I am driven to tears so easily. I always wish I had more to offer to those in need. We must just keep helping in any way we can.”
Jim continues to look after the needs of the JJ Fairfield community, constantly checking to make sure the families are all right, especially, during this pandemic.
After a lifetime of service both to his country and to the poor, we are thankful that Jim found his sweetheart in the Philippines because in doing so, the Philippines also found a kind, loving and caring heart in Jim.