martes, 18 de diciembre de 2012

Caitlin Ziegler and Los Patojos.

Hi, my name is Caitlin Ziegler, and I am a JustWorld International Ambassador from Milwaukee, Wisconsin.  Last month I had the opportunity to spend one week in Guatemala and experience the daily lives of the children and young adults of Los Patojos, and I was incredibly impressed with what I witnessed.  At Los Patajos, I saw so many children who were inspired, compassionate, and happy.  The little boys and girls played and learned together, and I was very impressed by the community that came together each day.  At Los Patojos the young children not only have the chance to have a safe place to play and socialize, but also to learn essential values such as hard work and responsibility.  The children were all polite and helpful, cleaning their plates and acting with respect towards one another.  Everyone smiled as the afternoon was spent trying out new skills and participating in favorite activities, and I was pleased to see that they all appreciated the nourishment and care being provided.  

Beyond this, I was inspired by the fact that the children were being encouraged to discover their own passions and to work together to achieve their goals.  Boys and girls of all ages were encouraged to work together, building communication skills and respect that will help provide solid family relationships in the future.  Similarly, the children were encouraged to explore new skills and focus on their favorite subjects, as demonstrated by the break dancing boys from ages 5 to 20, committed to transforming potential violent energy into passionate dance.  In the Los Patojos community, individuals of all ages are encouraged to use creativity and spirit to make the best out of the world around them.  The community’s leader, Juan Pablo Romero Fuentes, works day in and day out to help form the next generation of leaders for his town, and in his mission to create a safe place for children to develop into well-rounded young adults, he is able to inspire each person that he meets.    

While I was delighted to see the happy children and know that they had a safe place to play and learn values and work ethic, it was the older members of the Los Patojos community who impressed me the most.  We had the opportunity to return to Los Patojos one night and sit-in on a meeting of a youth leadership group as they planned an event for the upcoming weekend, and the group of young adults who I met amazed me.  The small group was completely committed to helping their community and making sure the event was a success, and the young men and women collaborated so well, coming up with several ideas for their event while we sat in a small circle around the room.  Despite the fact that funds were low, the group was not willing to give up.  Juan Pablo led an activity, tying the wrists of the leadership group’s members together and asking them to disconnect from one another, teaching a simple lesson: nothing is impossible.  In their meeting, the next generation of Guatemalan leaders worked together using that phrase as their motto, committed to overcoming all obstacles and making the event a success. 

The older children involved in Los Patojos are the future of Jocotenango, and they have the inspiration and ability to break the cycle of violence and drug use in the community.  With the encouragement of Juan Pablo and the other leaders, the young men and women work to pursue their passions, whether it be dancing, acting, writing, or leadership.  These young adults have the opportunity to discover that there is more to life that what can be found on the streets, and they pass their nights taking on their dreams instead of joining in the violence and drug use of their peers just outside the Los Patojos walls.  Their energy is put to good use, and their minds are expanded as they work together to build a better community.  In learning that there are more fulfilling options for life, and that in saying no to violence and drugs, they can help the community as a whole; the group of teenagers who spend their evenings at Los Patajos are becoming intelligent adults who will undoubtedly commit themselves to helping their community change and flourish.  

In the week that I spent at Los Patojos, I met a community of children and young adults who were inspired and passionate, learning to choose hard work and clean values over the temptations of violence and drugs.  The community gave me so much hope, and I am convinced that positive change will come at the hands of these young leaders.  The glow in the eyes of the older boys and girls as they followed their dreams and converted their energy into productive pursuits, and the smile on the face of each child convinced me that there is no better place for the youth of Jocotenango than at Los Patajos.  In my time there, I met with the next generation of Guatemalan leaders, who I am sure will continue to be committed to making a change in their community.  I wish Juan Pablo and his entire team the best of luck as they work to complete their new location, which I know they will be able to do before long because each member of the community lives with the “anything is possible” spirit that is the heartbeat of Los Patojos.

Text by Caitlin Ziegler.
Photo: JustWorld International, Trip Guatemala, November 2012.

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