Roberto Mendoza is a brilliant young man from Todos Santos, Guatemala. We met him in 2014 during our annual veterinary campaign. At the time, he was working at the same hotel we were staying and, like many other children in Guatemala, he had been pulled from school so he could work and help support his family.

Roberto and his mom.

Through the GAAP’s Family Sponsorship Program, Roberto was able to stay in school instead of working to support his family and not only that, but he also became the best student in his class. Roberto has shown to be an impressive young man; he’s smart, responsible and thoughtful, which is why earlier this year he was one of 5 teens chosen to represent Guatemala in an international 2-week exchange program that took him to several cities in the United States to share his experiences as a Mayan teen.

Now, Roberto is back in Guatemala and he told us all about his experience in the States.

“I liked everything about the trip! It was unforgettable,” he says. “I learned new things about leadership and being an entrepreneur. I got to see the most important places in these cities and learn how American families live. The experience left me feeling motivated and with new knowledge that has opened my mind and will surely help me a lot in my future”.

When asked about the contrasts between Todos Santos and EEUU, Roberto says: “The cleanliness of the cities, the education that families provide for their children, the personal hygiene, the way they care for their pets and the respect they have for important places. Those were the biggest differences”. Roberto says some of those things are needed in his hometown. “I would like to see Todos Santos putting into practice that sort of neatness, the way Americans value their culture and are able to educate their children and care for their pets”.

Roberto at the airport.

For Roberto, education is a particularly relevant topic as he comes from a place where many children and adults do not have access to an education due to issues like economic disparity and lack of opportunities for Guatemala’s indigenous communities.

Roberto is an example of a young man who is actively working towards a better future for him, his family and his community. When we asked him about his plans for the future he says he would like to stay in Todos Santos, but there are serious issues affecting his community. “Seeing how there are problems with the maras (violent gangs) in Todos Santos, I’d have to see how the situation is in a few years. If it continues, I would say it’s best to look for a safer place; a place where I can give my [future] children the best I can, a good education, but also help people in need”.