Build a school from recycled materials for Maya

Mar 22, 2010

A Postcard from Long Way Home in Guatemala

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:

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 – The Frances and Henry Riecken Foundation – WINGS –


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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