Juan Jo Mejía is a superstar! He was one of the first local young adults to join GHF’s youth mentoring program, and today is an integral part of our Global Healthworks Foundation mobile clinic team. He is smart, energetic, and dependable – a true asset to his community. Read all about Juan Jo's story below.
Living Altruistically: Juan José Mejía Develops Leadership and Life Skills with GHF
A young Guatemalan man stands at the doorway of the primary treatment space for Global Healthworks Foundation (GHF)’s October 2014 jornada (medical mission). His grin extends from ear to ear as he greets the most recent group of patients. “Buenas tardes y bienvenidos (Good afternoon and welcome),” he tells them as he gestures toward the waiting area seats. “¡Qué bueno verlos otra vez! (How great to see you all again!)” Though he stands just over five feet tall and has the youthful glow of someone much younger, the endlessly jovial jornada greeter interacts with each patient and completes each assigned responsibility as if he’s been working with the foundation for years.
“Juan José siempre toma su propia inciativa (Juan José always takes his own initiative),” Eva Carrillo, GHF’s clinic coordinator, says of her nineteen-year-old coworker. “Es único porque es muy activo, pero también muy colaborador y amable con todas las personas. (He’s unique because he’s very active, but also very collaborative and friendly with all people.)”
A recent high school graduate, Juan José Mejía began working with GHF and the foundation’s Guatemalan partner, the Centro de Paz Bárbara Ford, in October 2013 after Dan Wunderlich, GHF Founder and Executive Director, decided to implement a youth mentoring component to his Quiché-based outreach. Upon learning of the clinic position from a friend, Juan—or “Juan Jo,” as he is affectionately known among friends—submitted his application and soon after, was invited to the Centro for an interview. “Es una persona muy especial (He’s a very special person),” Eva says, describing why he was selected for the job. “Es un líder multiusos en nuestra clínica y en cualquier trabajo que hace. (He is a multipurpose leader in our clinic and in whatever work he does.)” Adds Dan, “Juan Jo is smart, energetic, dependable, and a quick learner. He’s constantly learning new skills that make him a true asset to his community—and to himself. When I see him speak to a group of patients – for example, about the importance of drinking aqua pura (clean water) – he communicates with such confidence. It is an awesome thing to observe, and it is the exact reason we initiated the youth program.”
“Juan Jo is smart, energetic, dependable, and a quick learner. He’s constantly learning new skills that make him a true asset to his community.”
In addition to conducting registration and acting as an interpreter at GHF’s biannual jornadas and weekly mobile clinics throughout his native Quiché, Juan José has become a health promoter in his own right. “He aprendido muchas cosas (I have learned a lot of things),” he explains. “Ahora puedo hacer la acupuntura auricular, dar masajes, y dirigir clases de yoga. (Now I’m able to do auricular acupuncture, give massages, and direct yoga classes.)” His progress is more than just professional growth, says Peter Caron, GHF’s local program manager and primary clinic acupuncturist. “I’d say he’s ‘expanded,’” Peter explains of his young team member. “Having a youth involved in the clinic was intended to encourage a sense of ownership, belonging, and caring within the next generation of Guatemalans. In Juan Jo, this process has unfolded beautifully. He’s growing into a representation of what any community would want to see its future look like.”
With each additional activity learned, Juan José says, he becomes even more inspired to continue working to improve the lives of fellow Guatemalans. “Esta experiencia ha cambiado muchos aspectos de mi vida (This experience has changed many aspects of my life),” he describes. “Es algo increíble. Para mí, las clínicas son ejemplos de cómo construir un mundo mejor, una vida mejor. (It’s something incredible. For me, the clinics are examples of how to construct a better world, a better life.)”
Because of his work with GHF over the past year, he continues, he’s become “una nueva persona (a new person). Antes yo pensaba mucho en mí mismo. No me importaban las otras personas. Pero mi mentalidad ahora es muy diferente; es seguir mejorando a la sociedad y aprovechando de las oportunidades que tengo. (Before I thought a lot about myself. Other people didn’t matter much to me. But my mentality now is very different; it’s to continue bettering society and taking advantage of the opportunities that I have.)” One of those opportunities has been to begin a university degree in mathematics and computation—something he’s not sure he would have been able to do without his job with GHF. “Quiero ayudar a mi familia y a la gente de Guatemala (I want to help my family and the people of Guatemala),” he says of his decision to enroll at the local university. “Seguiré adelante. (I will continue moving forward.)”
As he continues moving forward and modeling a way of living altruistically, Juan José will doubtless affect the lives of numerous others, developing into the type of leader necessary for a better Guatemala and world.