Ambassador Lili’s Account from Los Patojos

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“This past week, July 29-August 2, I had the opportunity to visit Los Patojos with part of the JustWorld International team. This trip was beyond amazing. The people with whom I travelled with, which consisted of Ambassadors, interns, and the leaders, were beyond nice. It was great to meet other Ambassadors from all over, some who live very close to me, whom I’m sure I will still see them around, and some from as far away as Switzerland, which is sad because I probably won’t get to see them again. . It’s incredible that I had the opportunity to make connections with people from all over the world!

Each day was exciting and filled with new adventures that never left room for any dullness. The first day consisted of traveling from our home towns to Antigua, meeting each other, eating at local restaurants, and zip lining straight after the airport! The food was beyond yummy and the zip lining was a great way to get to know each other.

The next day we all met Juan Pablo, the founder of Los Patojos, at his house. Juan Pablo is the most amazing person I will ever meet. He is the friendliest, kindest, sweetest, and most inspiring person. He gave us a tour of his home, which was the original site of the school. The moment you walk in, you see giant murals covering the walls. Some were of kids, while others were quotes. Juan Pablo redesigned the house that his family built in order to create Los Patojos. He started it all in his garage with a couple of kids who started talking about their lives. Juan Pablo wanted to create a safe environment for the kids of Guatemala; an environment where they didn’t have to worry about drugs, gangs, kidnapping, and malnutrition (all of which are issues that children in Guatemala face daily). Juan Pablo’s goal for Los Patojos was to create a school and haven for kids, rich or poor, in order for them to have a bright, safe future. I can easily say that he is achieving this goal. We walked over to the new school and I was more than impressed with the facility. It’s located in, what used to be, one of the most dangerous parts of town- the school changed the area because everyone respects Los Patojos and would never want anything bad to happen to it.

Screen Shot 2015-08-07 at 12.53.04 PMWe got to meet the children at Los Patojos and it was one of the best moments of my life. The kids were amazing and the happiest beings, even though they face some of the hardest living conditions. They were so adorable when they saw us- they love visitors! They jump on you, tackle you, and hug you. They also love taking photos of each other. I have approximately 400 photos just from one day with them and I am keeping them forever.

Los Patojos’ school was what my dream school would be like. The morals of the school are incredible. The students were not confined to a small classroom- classes were able to take place wherever they were comfortable on that day and students have the freedom to participate in the activities they enjoy.

These kids reminded me of little minions from the “Minions” movie and they looked up to Juan Pablo as the minions look up to Gru. They were hilarious, adorable, filled with energy, and it didn’t matter that I could not understand what they were saying sometimes!

Screen Shot 2015-08-07 at 12.52.40 PMThe next day we went back to Los Patojos and spent the whole day there. We each had to bring an activity for the kids to do for roughly an hour and a half. Some people were super creative and took Polaroid photos of each kid and let them decorate their own frames. I brought chalk for them to draw murals and play games with. Throughout the whole trip, the leaders told us that we would have an “Aha!” moment and mine was while they were playing together with the chalk. Right after I gave each kid a large piece of chalk, they asked me if they could keep it. When they found out that I got the chalk for them to have, they jumped up, ran, and held their chalk, screaming with joy. They were so happy receiving the chalk!

Later that day, we watched the older kids perform. The amount of talent they all have is astonishing. There were groups for breakdancing, juggling, acting, art, and music. They all taught themselves how to do their talent, which is even more astounding.

The next day, the group did fun activities to learn more about the Guatemalan culture and economy. We first went out and learned about the coffee from De La Gente, a co-op of coffee farmers. We hiked up and saw the coffee bean plants and then came down to the house where Gustavo lived, one of the members of De La Gente. At his house, we learned about the process of taking the picked fruits and turning them into the beans that we use for our cups of coffee. It was so interesting to learn about the process and how it really impacts the Guatemalan culture and economy. After our coffee session, we all broke off into smaller groups and went to our selected activity. There was burlap bag making, textile bag making, iron wielding, and woodworking. I was in the textile bag group with four other people. It was fascinating to learn about the different fabrics and how they portrayed different cultural elements! That night, we went to one of the coolest restaurants for our last dinner. The food was amazing and we saw a volcano erupt a few times! It was crazy to us, but normal to the people we were with who were from Guatemala.

The next day was leaving day and definitely hard. I loved this trip so much and did not want to leave! The kids were adorable and sweet, the food was amazing, and the group bonded so well!

Screen Shot 2015-08-07 at 12.50.17 PMMy experienceon this trip is unforgettable. It was truly awe-inspiring and I am so lucky to have had the chance to meet everyone and be part of such an amazing project. Juan Pablo and the children at Los Patojos are all inspirations to me. He is truly a hero, making opportunities available to children who would not be able to do so on their own, and loves each child as if they were his own. Juan Pablo is creating hope for his country and I am grateful that I was able to see this happen. He is changing the world for the better.

JustWorld is helping him make this change too. This organization is truly amazing; I am lucky and proud to be a part of it. JustWorld is helping these children to be able to succeed. It is definitely the best trip I’ve ever been on and one of the best experiences of my life.”