Andre Mershad, a JustWorld Ambassador since 2012 from New Albany, Ohio, went on JustWorld’s most recent trip to Guatemala to visit Los Patojos. He was so moved by his experience there that he wanted to share the unforgettable transformation he experienced.
“My trip to Guatemala was an absolutely unforgettable experience. I never would have thought that just a 2.5-hour plane ride away is a country so filled with struggles, but also where so much love and happiness exists concurrently. I truly believe that this love and happiness I witnessed has come directly from the Los Patojos Project.
On the first day of our mission, one of the long-time comers of the trip and JustWorld ambassador, Sophie Simpson, had thought of a brilliant idea. She suggested that we take a tour of the old project, which would allow us to hear and grasp that story, and walk to the current project, where a new story would emerge. This proposal turned out to be the highlight, and biggest experience of my journey to Guatemala. From hearing emptiness of Juan Pablo’s home, where the students no longer were, to hearing the laughs and screams from the students at a new, and improved project was, and will forever be indescribable. The sounds and sights gave me hope; but also caused me to feel incomprehensive in various ways. “How could some people take so far advantage of the special things they acquire, when others lack these elements, due to the area in which they live?” I would ask myself. Although, I felt incorrect. Material objects are not special, and they make no person better or further ahead than any other being. It is the motivation, passion, and determination that we, as people obtain that make us special. This is the most extraordinary quality that I was able to observe in the youth at Los Patojos. No fees were paid, nor were they necessary, in order for Franc to be a fascinating juggler, or Los Patojos’ dance team to be incredible break-dancers. This talent came from the inside and has radiated outwards, and Juan Pablo has allowed these artists to grow and become their own by giving them the physical space, and the time, while advocating for these tenacious people. When you feel a passion, it is important to do anything and everything in your power to make the best out of it, and this is what Los Patojos is teaching and creating.
I’m certain that the feelings received from being in that school are enough to impact anyone in the world, and it has already been displayed in the area surrounding Los Patojos. Citizens neighboring the project are beginning to paint their previously unpainted houses the vibrant Los Patojos red, children are able to walk to school without fear of violence, and slowly but surely the garbage that once caused the area around Los Patojos to flood, is being picked up, and staying there. Once a positive difference is seen, society will react. People won’t want to re pollute an area that is much better pure, and this is why Los Patojos’ morals are extremely effective.
I give a colossal thanks to everyone and everything that genuinely inspired me. I had never seen what differences I, as an individual and we, as JustWorld Ambassadors are capable of making, and it feels incredible to be a part of this transformation.”