This past April, some of the JustWorld Ambassadors took a trip down to Guatemala to visit Los Patojos. Everyone on the trip took a pause from their everyday life to go see exactly what all their hard work, time, and effort had turned into. With the help of JustWorld and its Ambassadors, a new school was built for children to learn skills from math and science to respect and innovation, which will aid in changing their future.
“Kids here are forced to grow up in a very harsh environment filled with violence…I wanted to give them a better present in order to attain a brighter future,” said Juan Pablo Romero Fuentes, Founder of the school. It was clear to see that Juan Pablo and all of the staff at Los Patojos were doing everything possible to accomplish this goal. The Ambassadors heard what Juan Pablo was saying and saw first-hand the changes that were being made to do so. Sophie Simpson, one of the Ambassadors on the trip, explained, “This was my second time visiting and spending time at Los Patojos. At first I was overwhelmed with joy and excitement just to see the kids. Seeing the new school that was built was incredible – the progress that has been made is really fantastic. I was ecstatic to see that these kids now have even more resources and more space, so that even more good things will come their way.”
During the trip to the school new friends were made and special moments were shared. “At Los Patojos on the first day when we were doing activities with the kids, there was one boy who had asked me to play basketball. But there was no court or ball to go play with—instead he had made his own out of clay! We played mini basketball with pieces that he handmade himself. He was resourceful and creative and instead of being upset about not having something he wanted, he went right ahead and made something just as cool!” said Andre Mershad. The children at Los Patojos are taught that being positive and imaginative can only lead to greatness. In Guatemala not every child is handed resources, but with a little effort these kids are finding a way to get what they need in a safe and creative way.
Los Patojos does everything it can to inspire the creative side of children through art, music, and dance. Tatianna Verswyvel explained, “Having the dance lesson and party in the new auditorium was the best part of the trip! The smiles and laughs that were shared all came from something that was so natural, music and dancing!”
Juan Pablo has instilled the idea that art is a safe and nonviolent way to express yourself. Kira Kerkorian was the recipient of a piece of art that was a form of gratitude. “I brought a bead bracelet making activity to Los Patojos and every kid immediately grabbed a handful of beads and made something for themselves. There was this one boy though, who took his time hunting for beads, one by one, picking though the piles. Once he finished making his bracelet he came over and gave it to me!” she said.
The people who the Ambassadors met on this trip started off as strangers and transformed into friends within a week. From the children at Los Patojos, to the staff, and fellow international Ambassadors, groups of people were coming together. Geoffrey Hesslink instantly made a new friend, Inés Minondo, an Ambassador from Guatemala. “Having our worlds collide was so amazing. Meeting a fellow Ambassador who was a different age, from another country and who speaks another langue, but having an instant connection over a shared interest, was the best.” Ty Simpson had a similar feeling towards Guatemalan Ambassador Sebastien Cheves, “Sebastien was so cool! He was great to have around and did all of the activities with me”.
All of the friendships that were made and moments that were shared happened between people from different places, unique experiences, and various views of the world. However, Juan Pablo shed light upon and constantly reminded them how we are all people, we are all connected, and that we are all special and deserve respect and opportunities. “It is important to think like Juan Pablo does,” says Mitch Endicott, “We need to take responsibility and take action to do more for people who can’t help themselves”. Tatianna added, “Juan Pablo is someone I can really look up to. He is so selfless and makes me want to do more, work harder, and better my contribution to Los Patojos. I can’t wait to come back after another year of fundraising and see just how much further the school and children have progressed”.