It’s PTPI Member Appreciation Week, and we’re highlighting how members of PTPI are true global leaders who connect across borders.
John Paton is President of PTPI’s Los Angeles, California Chapter. His friendship with Newlove Bobson Atiso, the Lomé, Togo Chapter president in West Africa, is a wonderful example of the difference that can be made by two people who have never met and are separated by continents.
John and his wife, Joan, got involved with People to People International when the Greater Los Angeles, California Chapter hosted visitors from the Roman, Romania Chapter through PTPI’s International Visitors Program. John and Joan followed up that experience by traveling to Romania for a return visit.
Since then, John and his chapter have hosted Open World delegations from Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Moldova. They are expecting another group this fall from Tajikistan. When these delegations visit, chapter members take the group on a tour to showcase places in the Los Angeles area that are of particular interest to them. His chapter is also planning to host three teenagers from Milan, Italy this summer. Though they are fully prepared to host the teenagers and provide some entertainment, he wishes he had families with teenagers in his chapter’s membership. He wants these young adults to have a true American teenage experience.
John Paton, his wife Joan Thompson (center), and Sonia Vasquez, a social worker at the Children’s Welcome Center, pose with the pillowcases they create for children in the community.
John’s wife, Joan Thompson, leads one of their chapter’s main projects, “People Pillowcases.” This project provides cozy flannel pillowcases to children entering foster care. The kids’ first night away from their family is spent at the Children’s Welcome Center, which accommodates more than 200 children per month. Joan says, “[The pillowcases] provide the children with a small and simple comfort at a time when they are frightened and confused at the upheaval in their lives.” Joan and her team of pillowcase creators recently delivered a record number of pillowcases to the center bringing the total to 1700 over the past year and a half. What is truly inspiring is how she finds people to help sew these treasured gifts. While some are friends from the chapter or her church, Joan has also recruited people while standing in line to buy the huge amounts of fabric needed to complete the project. Funding for this project comes from chapter funds and PTPI Chapter grants*.
Around the same time that the People Pillowcase Project began, John and Newlove really started communicating. John was immediately impressed with Newlove’s passion and leadership in his chapter and his community. Newlove raises money for an orphanage in his community and provides direct help to families dealing with HIV/AIDS. John and his chapter sent money for school supplies to help with one village school. This school accommodates more than 200 students with up to 70 kids per classroom. John explains that the government runs the schools and provides very little funding for operation. The rest of the money must be raised locally.
The structure of the village school is unstable, which was proven by a roof collapse that injured three children. John and Newlove immediately went into action. John and the chapter provided about 50% of the funding to rebuild the roof. PTPI provided funding as well through a PTPI Chapter Grant*.
John Paton celebrates his birthday wearing the gift sent from fellow PTPI members in Togo.
Recently, John celebrated his 80th birthday with a PTPI inspired party. He wore a traditional Togolese garment sent to him from Newlove for his big day. Instead of gifts, John requested attendees donate money either to the People Pillowcase Project or to Lomé, Togo to support the schools. John and Joan raised $740 during the event, $440 for the schools in Africa and $300 for People Pillowcases. Meanwhile, across the world, Newlove and seven of his friends got together for a prayer and a drink in honor of John Paton’s birthday. Two people connected by PTPI doing great things together.
Because of Newlove’s passionate energy and strong sense of goodwill, John and Joan feel drawn to visit the Lomé, Togo Chapter and Newlove, so they are planning a trip this summer. The two chapter leaders will finally meet fact to face.
*Chapter grants are possible thanks to the Hall Family Foundation.
To learn more about People to People International, visit www.ptpi.org or check out our Facebook Page