This March, Juan Pablo Romero Fuentes, Founder and Director of JustWorld’s NGO partner, Los Patojos, in Guatemala, spoke at South by Southwest (SXSW), an annual conglomerate of film, interactive media, music festivals, and education conferences, which takes place in Austin, Texas, to share his story and methodology of changing education in his country. This conference attracts more than 70,000 attendees with the purpose of creating opportunities for creative people to share new ideas from all over the world.
During the session entitled ‘Changing Guatemala One Dream at a Time’, NPR’s John Burnett asked Juan Pablo about his experience of transforming his home into a community space. Juan Pablo shared that the lack of safe spaces in Guatemala is what causes children and teenagers to go down the “wrong path.” He is still working hard to create more safe spaces that offer opportunities for children to express themselves in healthy ways. For example, the community center allows the children to learn new skills such as music, dance and art, and perform in front of the entire community.
“Arts, sports, technology, food, love, a place they can be at from 8:00 am – 10:00 pm, Monday through Sunday, doing things they like and can be a part of, is one of the things working the most for us.”
This is transforming not only the children, but entire families as well.
Reflecting on his experience, Juan Pablo shared that, “Attendees of the conference had fun and were inspired by the kids’ dreams and ideas; Guatemalan children are shaping the future of their country!” Juan Pablo and his team, in partnership with JustWorld, are working hard to change the realities in Guatemala by applying a holistic lens to everything Los Patojos does, battling brain-drain, and designing areas to be financially self-sustaining.
Public platforms, like the SXSW Conference, are allowing the world to see Juan Pablo as a role model and to see his dream come to life. What started as an idea to open his home as a community center is now leading to more opportunities that would not have been possible without action. Now, hopefully the success taking place in Jocotenango, Guatemala, can be replicated all over the world.