JONESBORO, Ark. (AP) — Westside senior Jesse Clayton has traveled to Nicaragua five times and seen the effects of hunger and poverty on the population and will return on spring break to continue his efforts to end such problems for the hungry and poor of the country.

During a recent church trip, Clayton befriended a man named Charlie Brown, the president of Open Hearts Ministry. Open Hearts is a ministry-oriented group with special ties to Nicaragua, where it currently stations feeding centers and sponsors local farmers.

Open Hearts is working with Nicaraguan farmers to develop the poultry and produce industries, starting with a 3-acre farm in Leon, Nicaragua, according to the group's website. Open Hearts and its volunteers provide Nicaraguan farmers with resources and new techniques to boost the system.

Open Hearts hopes the aid they provide at the farm will spread across the community to break the cycle of poverty and provide similar opportunities to others in need.

The Jonesboro Sun reports that Clayton hopes to take the "teaching a man to fish" model of the Nicaraguan farms across the world, and he hopes his classmates in the Westside EAST program can help him accomplish a working model for similar self-sustaining farms.

"When I went to Nicaragua for the first time, I fell in love with everything happening there," Clayton said. "Then I joined EAST and started thinking about how we could tie the program into my future work, ministry. ... We are creating a manual on the information you need to know for one of the farms, like the total cost, and looking at other agricultural methods we can use."

The students are also creating 3-D models of the farm to study how to make it better, Westside High School EAST facilitator Brooke Chapman said.

"I think it is the perfect EAST project because it combines the different aspects of my students' lives, what they have experience with and how to apply that to the class," Chapman said. "This is the perfect combo since Jesse already had a heart for this and has the access to the tools in here to do something about the project, which he has already seen in person."

The EAST lab has brought in other students at Westside, such as students in the agricultural department, to study different agricultural techniques, Chapman said.

"It's brought awareness to other students who did not know anything about this project, and although they have never been over there, they have been told about how they need people like us to help, and it is really driving them to work on this," Chapman said.

While Clayton has gotten his classmates to help him in his efforts, he said he hopes he can get more people to help support the project.

"The entire program is based off of one slogan: Change starts with you," Clayton said. "Are you ready? What that means is that we need everyone on board in order to solve the problems in this world like hunger, thirst and poverty. We need people to help by coming over or supporting Open Hearts Ministry."


Information from: The Jonesboro Sun,