Year Joined MKLM: 2014
Ministry: Colegio San Juan Bosco
Ministry Area: Education
Goal of Ministry: Promote young people’s vocational and life skills and personal development
Juan lives and works in a rural indigenous community called Tacopaya. It is located on the isolated steep mountains of the Andes, four hours from the city of Cochabamba.
In Tacopaya, people live so spread out throughout the hills that walking to school at the central part of the community can take sometimes up to three to five hours. For this reason, the local Catholic church built a boarding school in order to give the local youth a real chance to study on a daily basis.
Juan works closely together with this boarding school called Colegio San Juan Bosco. His priority goals and objectives for his different activities are to develop critical thinking, strengthen self-esteem and team work, and reinforce values, life skills and social awareness. In all of this, he strives to develop a stronger sense of values and is motivated by a love for their millennial culture and their indigenous Quechua customs, traditions, surroundings and way of life.
Unfortunately, 98% of the youth that finish high school immediately migrate either to the city or to a more developed town in search of a job to be able to sustain themselves and help their families. Only 5% of them pursue higher education. This is why a big focus of his ministry work is based on giving them vocational and life skills training.
Juan teaches computer, auto mechanics and baking classes. He also coaches sports teams, leads a faith youth group, and mentors and accompanies his students. He uses Popular Dialogue and Integral Pedagogies’ popular education methods, including hands-on, games and recreational activities. He believes that developing each person’s critical thinking ability is the most important step toward achieving sustainable change.
“Living and sharing life with the people here is such a privilege,” Juan says about his life and work in Tacopaya. “Our very different life journeys meet in this place and time to enrich us all in a grace-filled way. For me, being a Maryknoll Lay Missioner is to have my heart open, to be transformed by the community I live and work with, which continuously transforms me into a more compassionate person. And it is my hope that the people I have the privilege to work with are inspired to search and follow their own personal journey.”
Students graduate from San Juan Bosco boarding school with trade skills that will allow them to search for a decent job and be able to generate an income to support themselves and help their families.
Juan also serves as Maryknoll Lay Missioners’ regional director for Bolivia.
Prior to his ministry in Bolivia, Juan lived and worked in El Salvador in the rural community of San Francisco, where people make a living as subsistence farmers. Working on values reinforcement at a middle school, he fostered a safe space for children and youth to develop both individually and as a part of a community, and to strive for the common good. He also led an afterschool program, critical thinking workshops and the parish youth group.
Juan is from Manizales, Colombia. When he was a teenager, his family migrated to the United States. Juan lived in Toms River, New Jersey. He has a bachelor of science in industrial engineering from New Jersey Institute of Technology, Newark, and worked as a manufacturing engineer and car mechanic. Juan did several summer service trips to the Dominican Republic. As part of his mission discernment, Juan made an eight-month motorcycle pilgrimage of the Americas.
On his motorcycle pilgrimage, he said, “I was blessed to meet people with great hearts, each of them leaving a footprint on mine. Experiencing first-hand these different cultures and traditions has broadened my sense of spirituality, religion and belonging. It has helped me be more open to different cultures and seeing their daily struggles has strengthened even further my will to spend my life serving others.”