May 15, 2005 – Hiram Wiggins has been part of the International Alliance of Guardian Angels for more than 20 years. Born in the Watts section of Los Angeles, Wiggins had to survive in a neighborhood controlled by some of the most infamous gangs in the United States. "I lived in a Bloods neighborhood. Even if you were not officially a part of the gang, there was an unspoken code that you didnt go against the gangs' activity, and you didnt open your mouth to 'rat' against them," Wiggins said. "I was always getting my bike stolen; it didn't even make any sense to have any childhood toys."
Wiggins was one of 11 children living in a multi-family dwelling. He was recruited by the Guardian Angels while he was working at a Chucky Cheese restaurant one summer. "The gang members were always coming in and breaking into the games," Wiggins said. "My coworker, Richard Garcia, was a Guardian Angel. We used to throw the gang members out. He asked me to join the group."
Wiggins got thoroughly involved in Guardian Angel life. "I actually moved into the headquarters and lived there for several years until I graduated from high school," he said. Patrolling neighborhoods was not the only thing he learned from the Guardian Angels. "I learned about life, the right way to live it, how to respect women; respect relationships, respect other peoples' opinions and lifestyles," he said.
Over the years, the Guardian Angels have come face-to-face with violent situations while carrying out their mandate. Although they never carry weapons on patrol, that doesn't seem to bother Wiggins. "The colors are respected," he said, referring to the distinctive red beret and organization t-shirts members wear.
Besides his imposing stature — 6'2, 275 pounds — Wiggins carries another weapon: He is a martial arts expert and has studied Kung Fu since he was 9 years old. He is a former Wu Shu Kung Fu champion and has won a regional competition four years in a row. He is an expert in Splashing Hands, Tai Chi and the Hung Gar Kung Fu methods. He taught Kung Fu at Massachusetts Institute of Technology for two years and has conducted Kung Fu seminars in several states. Wiggins said he would like to continue teaching martial arts in St. Croix. "I am hoping to teach at hotels, gyms and maybe do a summer program for students," Wiggins said. "I want to conduct classes at the schools in the fall, too. It's a good vehicle to channel anger and is useful in dealing with school bullies." Wiggins eventually wants to open his own school on St. Croix.
Wiggins is also looking for permanent employment. "The Guardian Angels is an all-volunteer organization," Wiggins said. "I'm not getting paid to do this, not even a stipend." Wiggins has more than eight years experience in juvenile institutes as a counselor, specializing in planning and development. He trains staff in behavior management, crisis management, emergency procedures, violence/sex offender prevention, restraint procedures, and Hepatitis B/HIV-Aids prevention.
Wiggins' first visit to St. Croix was in January, when he came with three of his colleagues to assist local law enforcement during festival time. (See "Angels Hit St. Croix With Radar for Trouble.") He visited again during the Agricultural Fair and made the decision to relocate. "I've lived and visited all over the world," Wiggins said. "I like St. Croix, the people and the lifestyle, and I think a local chapter will be really good for this island."
As a Guardian Angel, Wiggins has visited almost every state, as well as Africa, Brazil, Austria, Australia and Germany. He spent one year in Japan establishing a local chapter. While there, he learned to speak and write Japanese. "I hope to meet someone on island who speaks Japanese so I can stay proficient in the language," Wiggins said.
If all this is not enough, Wiggins has yet another talent. He is a massage therapist specializing in the Japanese method of deep tissue massage. "It's called Okazaki Restorative Massage Therapy," Wiggins said. "It breaks down muscle and restores them stronger." Wiggins has been using this technique for two years, but he says through Kung Fu, he has been trained in massage for more than 20 years. "I am trained in traditional Chinese medicine acupuncture, pressure points, massage, Chinese liniments and herbs."
Wiggins feels good about the future of the Guardian Angels on St. Croix. "We have about 15 graduates and about 30 members who are still going through training," Wiggins said, adding that recruiting new volunteers is ongoing. To be able to patrol, you must be at least 16 years old. He said Guardian Angels need help from all sectors of society. "It doesnt matter how old you are. It's not all about patrolling; there are many other things to do." Wiggins said the local chapter needs administrative assistance and in-kind donations. "Right now we are looking for a permanent headquarters to hold meetings and conduct trainings."
To volunteer or assist, you can call Wiggins at (340) 332-4795.
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