Alex Zetterman Takes Opportunity to Visit Los Patojos
Following an intense winter season in Wellington, Alexander Zetterman is back on home-soil at Springfield Farm in Sweden. Before his return to start the outdoor season in Europe however, he took time out of his crazy schedule to visit JustWorld International partner project, Los Patojos, in Guatemala.
Alex has been very involved with JustWorld as an Ambassador and it has been a wish to visit one of the projects from the very beginning. He finally got the opportunity to visit Los Patojos this past April and was completely taken away by what he experienced on his visit. “Finally, I got to visit Los Patojos in Guatemala, one of JustWorld’s amazing projects. I want to thank Juan Pablo Romero Fuentes and his team and of course JustWorld International for giving these children and their community a chance to have a brighter future. Without this project, these kids would not go to school and we cannot imagine how their future would be like.”
The trip to Guatemala had a profound effect on Alex. Back home in Sweden, he has resolved to continue his efforts raising awareness for JustWorld International, starting in Falsterbo.
Shared Passions and Experiences
By Cooper Bradshaw
I first went to Gatemala six years ago when I was ten years-old. I was painfully shy and spoke little Spanish but the experience was my fourth trip to Los Patojos. I’m not an equestrian. I’m a tennis player, and I went to Guatemala to share my passion with my friends at Los Patojos. My sister Madison is the equestrian in our family and also an Ambassador of JustWorld. She wanted to visit Los Patojos several years ago so my mom agreed and took my brother and me also. We returned each year until Madison left for college; since then, I have been trying to figure out a way that I could return to Guatemala to make my own contribution, because although we first went to Guatemala to see the project and to hopefully make a difference in the lives of the children there, Juan Pablo, Rafa, and the kids at Los Patojos all changed my life!
The poverty and circumstances that my friends at Los Patojos have to endure in Guatemala made me want to improve their lives so much that I completely forgot about how shy and self-conscious I was. Those kids are just like me; the only difference is that they haven’t had the same opportunities I have had. We are so similar but our worlds are so different. And while their lives may be much harder, I noticed that in many ways they are better people for it. The children at Los Patojos all respect, nurture and support each other and are never mean to one another. There are so many children in that small space but there are very few scuffles. The kids have very little but are also so generous and are always eager to share any treats that they have. On my last visit they had a piñata to celebrate someone’s birthday. Each of the children eagerly offered some of their candy to me, even though it was a rare treat for them. They are also very appreciative. On a couple of my visits, we brought gifts for the children and when we handed them out the children politely formed a line and waited patiently. The children all thanked us with huge hugs, like the ones they greet us with each day. Children in the U.S. would surround me and shove their hands in front of each other to be first and would complain if they didn’t get the color they wanted. I feel very fortunate and inspired to have met everyone at Los Patojos but also sad that they don’t have the same advantages that I have. Juan Pablo, Rafa, and the other teachers there are working hard to give the children opportunities and I wanted to share some of my world with my friends there and let them know that the rest of the world cares too.
I was inspired by Jessica Newman who found a way to use her passion for a much greater good. I asked my tennis coach, Jose Hilla, if he would go with me to Los Patojos so that we could teach the kids tennis. Jose is the founder of HRT Academía de Tenís, and is the most enthusiastic, exuberant, fun tennis coach I have ever met. I knew everyone at Los Patojos would love him and as he also speaks Spanish. He eagerly accepted and hopefully a tradition has now begun. This last trip was a part of a larger plan to raise both funds and awareness for Los Patojos and to also let us share our passion for tennis with our friends there by giving them exposure to activities that they might not ordinarily have. My mom, Jose, my sister Madison, and her boyfriend, Hud Mellencamp, visited Los Patojos in April and brought racquets, balls, and a net, and set up a “court” in the amazing courtyard of the new school. Hud is also a Golden Gloves junior boxing champion and brought boxing gloves and mitts and taught the children and teachers a few of his moves. Jose and I also practiced at a local tennis club and played tennis with the director of the Antigua Tennis Federation. Jose got him to come to visit Los Patojos with two of his assistants to meet the children and run a tennis clinic with us. Hopefully they will continue the relationship; the children and teachers all seemed to love our sport and the director of the Federation is always looking for ways to get local children interested, and there is even a public court nearby.
This past trip was one of the most rewarding experiences that I have ever had because I was able to share something that I am passionate about and see others’ enthusiasm for something that I really enjoy. That includes introducing Jose to Los Patojos as well as teaching the children tennis. The fun we all had together broke down all language barriers and it brought me so much joy to bring them joy. Jose and I are hoping to return in the fall to follow up on the tennis program and expand our efforts to fundraising. Brenda Corletto has been working to help us with contacts in Guatemala City so that we can host tennis clinics with local tennis players as both a fundraiser and to raise awareness for Los Patojos. We have several junior players from the USA, including the Sonoma State University Women’s Tennis Team, that are interested in joining us to compete against Guatemalan junior players, and to play tennis with our friends at Los Patojos. We will coordinate with JustWorld so that if anyone else is interested in joining us, they too can enjoy the incredible experience that we have had. Shared experiences like these bring the world closer together and make it a much happier place for all.
Want to come to Los Patojos? Our next trip is August 3rd-7th! Confirm your space on the next trip with Amber Warren at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Hope to see you there!