I assume by now that everyone has heard about the myriad of disasters that affected Guatemala in early June. Between Pacaya, Tropical Storm Agatha and the sinkhole in Guatemala City, there has been plenty of excitement. The shutting down of the airport caused some logistical challenges for both volunteers and staff trying to come into or leave the country.
Despite the hurdles from Mother Nature, Long Way Home is enthusiastic about the progress being made at the Tecnico Maya Vocational School. Walls are up for the second set of vocational workshops. Local laborers and volunteers are working long hours hauling and mixing dirt in preparation for the next phase of construction.
We have also been making exciting progress at our prototype structure, the earthbag kitchen. It is here that we test out building methods that will be implemented at the vocational school. A final coat of finish is going on the exterior walls and we are experimenting with the tints available in Comalapa. The workers are enjoying working with the ratios of mix to find the perfect color combination. Our neighbor, Davit, who will eventually move into this home, is enthusiastic about having a lovely place to live with his family. When we build the primary classrooms, these color formulas will be used to brighten up classrooms and recreational spaces.
As we enter the second half of 2010, LWH is embarking upon a campaign to raise $40,000. These funds will be used to complete the four vocational workshops and begin construction of the eight primary classrooms. We are currently employing 10 Guatemalan construction workers and would like to increase that number to 18. We are committed to supporting the local economy through employment opportunities, patronage of Comalapan vendors and productive use of waste. Increasing our manpower will also allow the construction to move more swiftly and ensure that the children of our community have better educational facilities as soon as possible.
I encourage you to watch our latest video (link below) to see previous donations in action. Please also visit our recently updated photo gallery (link below) if you want to see more of our community and our work. Thanks for your support. Together we are building a better future for this Mayan community.
In February, six GlobalGiving donors traveled to Guatemala for a week of exploration, cultural submersion, and welcomed visits to four GlobalGiving projects.
One of these projects was a school built by Long Way Home. The interesting detail about this visit was that the school was made out of recycled materials. Prior to our visit, it was hard to envision what a “school made from recycled materials” might look like – but our curiosity was quickly addressed once we arrived at the project “Build a school from recycled materials for Maya,” in the small town of San Juan Comalapa. We first toured the “tire garden,” where tires collected from throughout the area were stored. These tires are subsequently stacked, packed with earth, and covered with an adobe-like coating; they are the primary construction materials being used to build a school that will ultimately serve children and vocational students in this largely indigenous community. Plastic bottles stuffed with trash, and feedbags packed with dirt are also used in construction, and glass bottles have been incorporated into the design of the buildings, adding color and light. We met industrious young volunteers from the US and Europe who were doing everything from tending the garden to digging and building a massive retaining wall – built of, what else, tires!
Parque Chimiya, which adjoins the area where the school is being built, includes an organic garden, soccer fields, and other recreational facilities that bustle with social and educational activity – we met many local schoolchildren and their teachers who were enjoying the park during our visit.
This project was certainly one of the most creative and innovative uses of recycled materials our group had ever experienced – addressing not just the need for improved educational facilities, but the omnipresent problem of garbage and trash as well.
To check out more photos and news from Long Way Home visit their project page: www.globalgiving.org/2402
And just if you’re curious about the rest of the trip and where they were headed after Long Way Home:
“Almost every day in Guatemala brought us to projects which are doing important work for the people of Guatemala. This is a country devastated by decades of war, which suffers all of the consequences of crushing poverty, especially in the rural areas. Although I often felt disheartened to learn of the high rates of child malnutrition and low rates of education, projects like WINGS, which promotes family planning through education and improving women's health; the vocational school being built from recycled tires and plastic bottles by Long Way Home; and the community-run lending libraries facilitated by the Riecken Foundation, were terrifically uplifting. We repeatedly met enthusiastic people committed to doing good for the poor of Guatemala in culturally sensitive ways, which was the perfect antidote to the feeling of sadness or hopelessness that comes from hearing bleak statistics and seeing people living with so little.”
To check out the other visited projects go to:
Pueblo a Pueblo – www.globalgiving.org/3666
The Frances and Henry Riecken Foundation – www.globalgiving.org/3339
WINGS – www.globalgiving.org/2394
Dear Long Way Home donors,
The school site has made much progress since I last visited in November 2008.
Today, February 26, 2010 we made significant progress because we hired a backhoe to move dirt around.
From January 2009 until today ALL work on the Tecnico Maya School has been done by hand, without any machinery.
But today, that all changed when we hired a backhoe to speed up the building process. Please see how much dirt has been excavated. This will save us three months of digging.
The crew is very happy about this because they have grown in their skills beyond digging. When I visited the site today they told me that they are thrilled to be learning new green building techniques. They do not want to go back to digging. Onward with tire packing and more challenging work!!!
And our architect, Ericka Temple is happy also. She wrote in her blog today:
"Excavation, excavation, excavation! The first ever LWH bulldozer was hard at work Thursday moving dirt and cutting into the slope so that our building crew can focus on BUILDING A SCHOOL. It was a happy day. Hand excavation has an appropriate time and place, as does calling in machinery – we were thrilled to be able to choose the right tool for the job at hand. The area for the next vocational workshops is now cleared and ready for foundation, and a small platform at the upper level was cleared out to produce enough dirt to continue with the retaining wall. Eventually the entire upper terrace will be excavated at this same level to create the platform for the primary school classrooms."
Please visit our website at www.longwayhomeinc.org for more updates. Thank you to all,
Elizabeth Rose, President, Board of Directors, Long Way Home