Los Patojos is a place for more than 150 kids to come and be kids, away from the problems of their everyday lives. Founded by Juan Pablo in 2006, the project aims to provide a safe haven for young children where they can freely express themselves, receive motivation to learn and to continue their educational pursuits, despite the dismal situation in their local schools. Often in the public schools there are 50 to 60 students in each class with one teacher and no supplies. The goal of Los Patojos is to change dreams and ideas into action. They are achieving their goals - the children come every day, receive a basic lunch which Give Kids A Chance funds. They receive help with their homework from the staff and volunteers and also learn to use the tools they will need to survive in Guatemala. Although the centre is packed with so many children, they are happy, interested and learning new skills such as communication, and problem solving. Without the centre these kids would be on the street, learning the lessons of gang mentality, drugs, violence and the hopelessness of poverty and desperation. The centre is a vital part of their lives and their futures.
Los Patojos Cultural Centre
Juan Pablo identified a need in 2010 in his community of Jocotenango. While the children's centre provides a safe haven for young children, as they matured there was no place for them to be where they could explore and mature safely through the precarious time of adolesence. As any parent knows, between the ages of 14 and 20 any young adult can get into serious trouble. In Guatemala this problem is magnified by 100 times with the preponderance of street gangs, drugs, alcohol and violence. To this day the majority of young women are pregnant between the age of 14 and 20.
In order to circumvent the problem Juan Pablo opened a new centre with the co-operation and assistance of Just World International in the United States. During our visit from January to March, 2011 we became familiar with the project and its goals and ideals, through the help of our CasaSito friends.
Their project is exactly what the youth of Guatemala need. In this centre they are free to explore the new worlds of journalism, juggling, art lessons, music lessons (drums and guitar), computer literacy and break dancing. In our eleven years of working in Guatemala we have never seen a project that is fulfilling such a need. Give Kids donated funding to the project to purchase equipment and supplies to start up and we are funding the centre monthly to ensure it can stay open and keep these kids off the streets and out of gangs. It has been a great success, young adults are actually quitting the street life, giving up drugs and participating every day at the centre.
Construction of Children & Youth Centre - Los Patojos
During our two month visit to Guatemala in 2012, it became very apparent that the small house in which Los Patojos was operating in was no longer adequate. Often there was only one toilet functioning for over 150 children. As you can see in the film below, the kitchen is tiny and dangerous, with open gas canisters and very cramped quarters with little or no safe food storage space. With a special donation we were able to purchase land to build a new centre large enough to accommodate the needs of the centre now, as well as to ensure sufficient space in the future.
At the opening ceremony for the land, the Vice Minister of Justice and Anti-Violence praised Los Patojos for their success in engaging young people with their programs and stated that he wants to see the program replicated throughout all of Guatemala. Our new building will have facilities for trainees to come from around the country to learn how to work with the program and how to achieve the same success in their communities.
With this centre Los Patojos will become self- sustaining. They can use the building to rent classes to colleges and to accommodate gatherings in their town of Jocotenango, as currently there are no public spaces in the town.
The construction of phase 1 was begun in December 2013 and is progressing extremely well. See pictures below.
Volunteer and Construction Crew (Left) Celebration of buying the land
While we have sufficient funds to make significant progress on phase 1, which includes an outdoor eating area, kitchen, classrooms and bathrooms along with the perimeter wall, we still need to raise all the funds for phases 2 & 3, as well as the completion of phase 1.
This centre will entirely change hundreds of lives of the children and youth in Jocotenango as well as thousands throughout the country. The most prestigious newspaper in the country recently voted Los Patojos one of the top ten projects currently operating in Guatemala on behalf of children and youth.
We need the support of our donors to complete this valuable project. If you would like to donate to our building fund, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Artist's View of Building Under Construction:
Please View Video:
Please View Week 1 Construction Video:
As you can see the construction is coming along very well. Phase 1, consisting of classrooms, a kitchen, an outdoor dining area and washrooms is 60% complete. We are ahead of target!: