Build a school from recycled materials for Maya

Mar 20, 2009

Our House, In the Middle of Our Street & Why Did Matt Name It “Long Way Home”?


This is the second in a series of snapshots about project leader Matt Paneitz and his organization Long Way Home.

Thank you for your continued support of Matt and his tireless dedication to providing education beyond 8th grade to 50 Maya children in rural Guatemala. We ask you to contribute again today! Feel free to tell your friends about Matt and his incredible work!


Our House, In the Middle of Our Street

Long Way Home staff members Liz and Adam Howland custom wheels to keep them dry and safe in the Guatemala Highlands. After seven months of hard work, Liz, Adam, and Matt completed the construction of a round tire house built using discarded car tires, plastic bottles, and soil-filled burlap bags.

The house largely consists of 250 rubber tires packed full with the dirt from old adobe mud bricks. For under $2,000 Matt and his team were able to safely use roughly 64,000 pounds of garbage as building material in this prototype test structure, which is 13 feet in diameter. Although Liz and Adam are a “long way” from home, they live comfortably and affordably in their ecologically-friendly abode.

Why Did Matt Name It “Long Way Home”?

The name Long Way Home represents the daily journey of a rural Mayan farmer in Guatemala. Traditionally, the farmer leaves home at dawn to till the fields, his young children in tow to provide the additional labor more valuable to the family’s economic survival than their education. Quite often, a family of ten might bring home a daily income of $3, eating tortillas with salt as the nutritional mainstay. As the sun sets, children, parents, and grandparents are regularly seen carrying heavy loads of firewood tied to their backs as they return home from a long day of work in the fields. The firewood is quickly consumed preparing the food that will sustain the family as they repeat the routine the next day. Long Way Home strives to break the cycle of poverty by creating educational opportunities, cultivating civic interaction, and encouraging healthy lifestyles.

Interestingly, LWH was initially funded from firewood that was cut and sold as a fundraiser by volunteers in Oregon during 2004.


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Project Leader

Mateo Paneitz

Executive Director
Georgetown, MA United States

Where is this project located?

Map of Build a school from recycled materials for Maya