Traveling with a purpose is something many aspire to do, few have tried, and fewer have done. For Phil, a Home Improvement Expert, what started as an adventure-seeking trip to Guatemala turned into a life-changing experience.
Since moving to Guatemala from the comfort of California in 2013, Phil has been working to support a little girl and her family and giving back to the local community.
We spoke with Phil about his life in Guatemala, his positive impact on the locals, and how he has used JustAnswer to help his cause.
JustAnswer: Tell us a little bit about your background.
Phil: I owned and operated my own mechanical contracting firm in Los Angeles with a staff of 28 people. We did medium to large scale mechanical constructions, including cooling systems for General Dynamics and Aerojet General Corp.
In 1985, I sold that company and started taking consulting contracts nationally. It was great because it gave me the flexibility to travel, which I love, and allowed me to work on some really interesting projects.
JustAnswer: That's quite a long and accomplished career. Where has your love of travel taken you?
Phil: I began my travels in Central America and I was just looking for an adventure. I arrived in Guatemala in April of 2013 and met my friend Chris at a Spanish-teaching homestay shortly after. They tried to teach me Spanish, but I was a lost cause and gave up after 6 months.
JustAnswer: You're still in Guatemala today. What is keeping you there?
Phil: A person's heart melts a bit seeing the need here and what just a buck or two can do, so that got me started. Then Chris, who was volunteering as a teacher at the Education For The Children (EFTC) school, asked me to sit in on of one of his first-grade classes. I have many stories about that day. These are kids with unbridled human decency, joy, and compassion that I've not seen elsewhere.
One of the kids was Aura, an 8-year-old girl who lives with her grandparents near the village of Jocotenango. Her grandparents live on less than $100 a month and like many of the kids at EFTC, Aura often goes by without the bare necessities.
Chris told me about the sponsorship program at EFTC and I ended up sponsoring Aura.
JustAnswer: That's really amazing. How have you been able to help Aura with your sponsorship?
Phil: A small donation goes a long way here. I use some of my JustAnswer earnings to pay for her daily meals at school, which is $20 a month. I also used $50 to help pay for some new school clothes and food.
During the latest shopping trip with Aura and her supervisor from the school, Aura ran into the market and headed straight for a big bag of powdered milk. That has to tell a person something. Needless to say, myself and JustAnswer fixed her right up. It took two tuk-tuks to haul all the loot if you consider things like shoes, rice, beans, and cooking oil.
JustAnswer: It sounds like you literally changed her life.
Phil: I hope so. I learned about the extent of the education she receives at EFTC, from kindergarten through the 8th grade, and knew that the school cannot afford college so I set up a fund to help cover that. Subsequently, I worked just a bit harder on JustAnswer so I can maximize that funding. I also connected her to a few successful business people in Antigua who will follow up as mentors and connections for when she graduates from college.
JustAnswer: You are absolutely going above and beyond to help Aura and her family and it's great to hear that your work on JA is playing a role. Can you share your JA story with us?
Phil: Prior to Guatemala, I was traveling in my motorhome on a project when the distributor failed. I pulled into an auto parts store to get a new one. I had questions about how to get it out of the motor and found JustAnswer online. I got the answer I needed within seconds from an obvious pro in the business.
I am grateful for JustAnswer because traveling on just my retirement money would not have allowed me these extracurricular activities with the EFTC and other things a person can do here.
JustAnswer: It's inspiring to hear about how much you've given back. What's next for you?
Phil: I am traveling around Central America, often to the high mountain jungles. My favorite places are near Lago Atitlan and the wonderful Mayan people, and south to Jocotenango where the school is. I let providence guide me and that has been working out well.
I am going to push business on JustAnswer. More than a slight bit of money earned on the site will go to Aura, her family, and others. The lady that owns the building I live in is an attorney. I mentioned JustAnswer to her and showed her my JustAnswer screen and how its done. Hopefully, she will apply. The money we earn down here goes to very good uses.
If you would like to share your story or know of an Expert with a great story, let us know!