A sense of humor is part of the art of leadership, of getting along with people, of getting things done.
John is President of PTPI’s Los Angeles, California Chapter. He and other members of the chapter have formed a friendship with Newlove, the Lomé, Togo Chapter president in West Africa. The two chapters were paired through PTPI's Sister Chapter Program.
John and his wife, Joan, got involved with People to People International when the Greater Los Angeles, California Chapter hosted members of 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, Moldova, and Tajikistan.
John’s wife, Joan Thompson, leads one of the chapter’s main projects, “People Pillowcases.” This project provides cozy, handmade flannel pillowcases to children entering foster care. The pillowcases are donated to 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 started communicating. John was immediately impressed with Newlove’s passion and leadership in his chapter and his community. 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. People to People International provided funding as well through a PTPI Chapter Program Grant.
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. John and Joan decided to visit the Lomé, Togo Chapter. Newlove and other members of the chapter assisted them in finding accomodation, and served as hosts and tour guides during their stay. John and Joan were able to see firsthand the work they had supported, and to learn more about the people and culture of Togo.
We have 23,700 members around the world, and each has a story to tell. Discover the drives, dreams and ambitions of our PTPI network members, and then share your story with us. It’s how we break down barriers to peace and understanding.
Thank you for your ongoing support for our mission at People to People International. We, as a whole, continue to strive to live up to the legacy of world peace. But every day we make a choice to make a difference. That difference cannot be made without you and your contributions. Only together can we create everlasting peace and only together can we strive for and achieve greatness.
Merrill Eisenhower Atwater joined People to People International as the Chief Operating Officer in January 2018 and in April of that same year, he became Chief Executive Officer.