Build a school from recycled materials for Maya

by Long Way Home, Inc.
Vetted
One of our Kindergartners Enjoying Breakfast
One of our Kindergartners Enjoying Breakfast

Greetings and well wishes from San Juan Comalapa, Guatemala. My name is Taylor Bardecki and I am currently an intern at Long Way Home (LWH). I arrived in Guatemala at the beginning of May, and only have three weeks left until my time is up. I am a student at Florida State University, and was lucky enough to be accepted into an international program that assists students in finding internships across the world, which is how I found myself at Long Way Home. I really wanted to gain an understanding of how non-profits work and affect their community, and throughout my time here I definitely have. 

As an intern I have the opportunity to see multiple facets of the organization. I work both outside with the local employees doing construction work and inside with the staff members working on development work. In the beginning of my internship we had to tackle the instillation of a new leach field. The leach field is an alternative waste disposal method that is being used instead of a compost disposal. The field will help the bathrooms on the upper level of the school filter out waste and provide nutrients to the land. It took a lot of digging, patience, and hard work but now the bathrooms are fully functional. 

The construction team has been working on other parts of the project that include a new entry way to the school that will be wheel-chair accessible, new onsite volunteer housing, and a computer lab and library. The work site is constantly bustling with activity as the construction tasks are completed and students are running around all morning. With all the work being completed, Long Way Home has used over 400 tons of trash that would of been polluting the local environment and infrastructure.  Everyone has been extremely welcoming to the new interns and volunteers and are always happy to help us out with any difficulties or problems that we might have.

Additionally, I have been working closely with the Director of Development, Genevieve, on jump-starting our summer campaign, preparing grant applications, and organizing the smoothie (licuado, in Spanish) program. Our summer campaign celebrates how far we have come as an organization and how close we are to finishing the project here in Comalapa. If we meet our goal, Long Way Home will be able to have all of our critical campus buildings completed by the upcoming school year. The goal for this campaign is 25,000 USD, and already one month into our campaign we are 40% to our goal! What is really exciting is once we reach our goal, every dollar will be matched by a generous donor! We invite all of those from Global Giving to take part with us on this journey and help us cross the finish line. Please include the word "HomeStretch" in your comment box as you make a donation and we can get your generous gift MATCHED.

To help us with the campaign, Genevieve and I have been working to complete grants to give us that extra little boost. We look forward to seeing the results of these grants and the success that they will bring.

Lastly, the licuados or smoothie program has been going well since its inception, though as time has passed we have come up with different ways to make it more efficient. The licuado committee has been crucial in making the program function. The committee (comprised of our students' mothers) have recently decided to downsize the workforce and now two members a week prepare all 130 smoothies each day. They are now running the program with very little support from the foreign staff and it's wonderful to watch them take the lead and ensure success!

All in all, with more rains and winds, the bustling town of Comalapa has never looked any greener. With the help of the workers and staff of Long Way Home, the town is looking clean and fresh. Just in time for the town's feria next week! 

As I continue to work and learn with Long Way Home, I have come to have a greater understanding of how necessary support is to have this project continue and flourish. Thank you, for with all your help the organization is able to use self sustainable design and materials to construct self-sufficient schools that promote education, employment, and environmental stewardship. If you have any questions feel free to ask! If you wish to keep up with our projects, feel free to follow us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter!

Best Wishes

Taylor Bardecki

Taylor Working on the Leach Field
Taylor Working on the Leach Field
Glass Bottle Skylights in the New Computer Lab
Glass Bottle Skylights in the New Computer Lab
New Volunteer House Coming Together
New Volunteer House Coming Together

Links:

PenPals Skyping, Photo by Ron B Wilson, PWB
PenPals Skyping, Photo by Ron B Wilson, PWB

Guatemala has two seasons: wet and dry. Semana Santa (Holy Week) begins early this year and, as a result, falls within mes loco (crazy month) - that "month" in February and March where the weather is wicked. Wild winds, scorching mornings followed by menacing gray afternoons, Volcan de Fuego shooting off regular greetings, chipi-chipis (spitting rain) offering another grasp at life for plants who have barely made it this far through the dry months, all contribute to a strange energy comes around this time each year. Here at our hillside school outside of San Juan Comalapa, we at Long Way Home are harnessing this force for good...with your help! We hope that you enjoy reading about our last quarter and the strides we've made thanks to our Global Giving supporters and our network around the world.

Early January marked the beginning of the Técnico Chixot Education Center's third "official" school year and included a couple of exciting firsts. With the addition of Segundo Basico (Eighth Grade) we brought our enrollment from 90 to 118, a 31% increase! To accommodate the new students, we also opened up the elementary school classrooms for the first time. Aula three, the third earthbag dome, is now home to Sixth Grade and two of the tire classrooms funded by One Day's Wages (ODW) house Seventh and Eighth Grades. Having the older students on the same level of the property as the ongoing construction presented a few challenges in the beginning, but everything is flowing smoothly now that the first term is behind us.

In February, we kicked off our breakfast smoothie program. As was mentioned in previous Global Giving updates, we learned that many of our students were coming to school hungry, affecting their own ability to learn and concentrate, as well as that of their classmates. After talking to several parents, most of whom now form our "Licuado (Smoothie) Committee," last fall, we determined to try out a  nutritious fruit and veggie beverage each morning. Since February 22nd, five mamas (and sometimes a papa!) have shown up to school at 5:30 each morning to prepare about 130 drinks. Despite the fact that the hour is early and the roads are still dark, they have been tremendous in their efforts on behalf of the students. Other than the occasional suggestion that we're not adding enough sugar or honey, reviews seem positive from almost everyone. A few students don't want to consume theirs, and of course we don't force them, so our construction crew is always hovering near classrooms in the AM to see if they can help uninterested students with their breakfast bevie!

For two weeks in March, we had the pleasure of hosting a professional volunteer from Photographers Without Borders (PWB). Ron B. Wilson, whose background is both weddings and photojournalism, came to us from the Miami area and the result was stunning! Although he was careful to gets shots of everything we have going on at the school, his especial focus was on capturing the People of Long Way Home, including "family groups" that are involved through different aspects of our work. For example, Raul, one of our albañiles (masons) has a cousin who is also on the construction staff, as well as two children and a niece and a nephew in our primary school. Ron's already shared a few photos with us (two shown here) and we are waiting with baited breath to see them all. Thank you, Ron and PWB, for helping us to show off our project "through a new lens"!!

Our Seventh Graders have recently begun exchanging letters with a class in Colorado taught by a former Peace Corps Volunteer. The students in the US will write our students in Spanish and our students will respond in English. Gilma, our English teacher, and Isaac, our new Director of School Relations, led them through their first Skype meeting with their new penpals. The students from both countries had a lot of questions for each other and it will be fun to watch their friendships blossom.

On the construction side of things, work is proceeding very swiftly. Thanks to another generous grant from the Easterday Family Foundation, we have been able to maintain a sizeable construction team; we're up to 28 full-time crew members. Because the whether has been (mostly) decent and supplies readily available, we've come a long way on our computer lab/library and our new tire retaining walls. On the west side of the property, we have re-routed the school entrance to make it handicap accessible, requiring 590 car tires of reinforcement along that edge of the land. We have also used 750 car tires to construct a retaining wall behind the vocational school workshops. These, together with the 225 car and truck tires added to the upper (north) retaining wall we have created a safe platform for our next big building: the cafeteria and science/home econmics classroom. The tires used in these three walls represent an additional 32 tons of garbage that is no longer in the local waste stream, being burned or tossed in the nearest ravine!

With this momentum, we should have all campus-critical buildings done in 2016 and be ready to throw a grand opening party for the 2017 school year. As our middle school teachers are working over-time on our new curriculum and finishing the application for high school status, we hope to also welcome our first high school students in the coming year.

None of this would be possible without your continued belief in our mission to use sustainable design and materials to construct self-sufficient schools that promote education, employment and environmental stewardship. Together we are empowering communities to break the cycle of poverty through innovative solutions to local challenges. We are always available to answer any questions you have about our project, operations and services through the contact form on our website, or by responding to this update. We also encourage you to follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, for more regular updates.

With gratitude,

~Genevieve and the Long Way Home Team

Edwin, Cousin to Raul, Ron B Wilson, PWB
Edwin, Cousin to Raul, Ron B Wilson, PWB
Mamas Washing Chard for Smoothies
Mamas Washing Chard for Smoothies
New Computer Lab/Library Going Up
New Computer Lab/Library Going Up
Volcano Fuego Erupting During Smoothie Making
Volcano Fuego Erupting During Smoothie Making

Links:

Amaranth and Sixth Grade
Amaranth and Sixth Grade's Tire Frog

Happy Winter Solstice! I’m Stephanie Sims, a current intern at Long Way Home (LWH). I arrived in Guatemala in October, and have just three weeks left until heading back home to begin my Master's in Sustainability. I chose to volunteer with LWH because I wanted to get a hands-on taste of development work before I became immersed in the theory side of things. And, wow, have I - so many things have happened these past few months!

I’ve been working a lot on the fundraising side of things with Genevieve, our Director of Development. We recently rolled out our Winter "Just $21" Campaign and participated in our very first #GivingTuesday; we raised over $2,000 in just one day! Another first was the addition of a Booster piece to the campaign, allowing folks to order a tee shirt as well as donate. Success with that platform has encouraged us to consider a tee shirt design competition for the next campaign - we invite all of our GlobalGiving supporters to keep their eyes peeled for the announcement and participate.

Aside from working with Genevieve to expand our social media presence (check out our new LinkedIn profile), I’ve done my fair share of construction work. I’ve helped create plaster out of “cob,” which is an organic mixture of sand, dirt, hay, and cow manure that fortifies our walls, benches, and other areas throughout the campus. It’s amazing how such natural materials can be combined to create lasting classrooms and administration buildings for years to come.

I have also been helping out another intern, Shannon, with prepping our garden terraces at the school and in Parque Chimiyá. Based on the research done by Gabriela (see our March 2015 Global Giving report) and our medical team, Long Way Home plans on rolling out a breakfast smoothie program for the students at Técnico Chixot in the upcoming school year. Not only did the doctors report a high percentage of stomach pains stemming from hunger, but Gaby found that 32% of children are coming to school without breakfast, and that many who do eat in the morning receive only a piece of sweet bread and a cup of sugary coffee. We are currently exploring a partnership with local fruit exporters and our gardens will provide veggies like chard, carrots and spinach, as well as natural supplements like amaranth, to create a delicious and healthy morning meal for all students. A focus group with 14 parents, conducted by Gaby, generated both enthusiasm and commitment from our students' families; parents from every grade will be responsible for one month of preparing the drinks each morning (Kindergarten has January, First Grade has February, and so forth).

In terms of construction progress, we are working on final finishes for our seven primary school classrooms, constructing the walls of our library/computer lab, and beginning excavation on our cafeteria, where the smoothies will be made. Once construction is completed on our upper-level classrooms, we will have space to begin offering high school classes. All of these efforts will ensure a sustainable community in Comalapa for years to come. Teaching students how to care for their environment, as well as ensuring they get the best education possible, will only improve the local economy and allow for advanced opportunities for all Técnico Chixot graduates. Our technical school courses will prepare our students for entrepreneurial and environmentally friendly careers in business, artisan products, and construction.

As this year comes to a close, I want to thank all of you amazing donors for your help in making 2015 such a success. If it wasn’t for you, we would not be the organization we are today. We will be running our winter campaign through the end of the year, so please consider giving "Just $21" to support Education, Employment and Environmental Stewardship this season - every dollar goes a looooong way here :)

I want to wish all of you a very happy holiday season, and a healthy New Year!

Vol. Coordinator, Robin and Intern, Steph, Gardens
Vol. Coordinator, Robin and Intern, Steph, Gardens
Site of Cafeteria
Site of Cafeteria
Parents at Smoothie (Licuado) Focus Group
Parents at Smoothie (Licuado) Focus Group
2015 Kindergarten and 6th Grade Graduates
2015 Kindergarten and 6th Grade Graduates

Links:

Part of the Rainwater Harvesting Roof
Part of the Rainwater Harvesting Roof

Hello! My name is Alex Terrill and I have been volunteering at Long Way Home for the past two and a half months.

From day one, it was like a whole new world. I started learning about green building, recycling, the town of Comalapa, and how Long Way Home is making a difference here. My first assignment was to work with Roberto Peren at one of the Earthships that Long Way Home built on the hill above the school. We got to know each other as we organized the trash bottles and mixed the cement we would use for the veranda and rain collection improvements. Roberto is a Comalapan native and an artist like his father. During his off hours, he paints beautiful local masks and rituals in his own unigue style. A knowledgeable man of the area, he would offer history lessons and explanations over apples and chips during our breaks in the shade. My new friend also found a puppy wandering in the street and brought her up to the site as a gift; I call her Pistolera.

My admiration for the local people continually grew as the weeks passed and I saw and learned more of their town. Friendly greetings of “Buenos dias” or “Buenas tardes” are commonplace as are the little kids practicing their English salutations of repetitive “bye-bye-bye-bye”s that make you smile and keep waving until they are out of sight. The people here also possess a strong work ethic and can be found working in their shops or in the fields seven days a week. They are welcoming with their generosity and I was treated to a delicious birthday celebration lunch with one of the local families shortly after my arrival in Comalapa. When you stop in at the shops or grab a bite to eat in town, conversations will often to turn to praise or thanks to the volunteers and the workers building the “escuela de llantas” (tire school). Unsolicited comments like this really make the volunteers feel welcome and part of something larger in the community.

This August, Long Way Home partnered with the Engineers Without Borders group from the University of Minnesota to bring water from the lower elevation springs to a central collection point in the nearby village of Xiquin-Sanahi. The joint group worked for two weeks straight to finish the project in time. The town turned out to celebrate the success of the project with them once the last day of work was finished. The town now has gravity fed water, meaning they no longer have to walk to the lowest point in town and return with jugs of water for their house. Instead, they can now visit more centralized points, making life much easier for all the households. More than 125 families also have water running to their homes for the very first time! 

Construction at the school site is also progressing. Two septic tanks are now finished as is the water collection roof. Every time it rains, we are able to harvest 3,225 gallons per inch that falls! The team has also been working hard to finish the next series of rooms and every week they have visible progress towards the finished product. Materials are being gathered and we hope to start the next building shortly!

With the new life I was building here, and the awesome impact this project is making, I wanted to stay and continue to contribute. Matt Paneitz, the Executive Director, and the rest of the team agreed and I am looking forward to formally joining the team next month! I know that this project is possible because of the generous donations offered by Long Way Home's Global Giving supporters and I wanted to say thank you! Follow us on Facebook to see updates on our progress and how we are moving forward.

Pistolera the Pup, with her new Aunt Zelda
Pistolera the Pup, with her new Aunt Zelda
Engineers Without Borders - Twin Cities in Xiquin
Engineers Without Borders - Twin Cities in Xiquin
Alex helping our student, Miguel, with the race!
Alex helping our student, Miguel, with the race!

Links:

Medical team in action
Medical team in action

It's always a pleasure to prepare a report for our Global Giving supporters. Correctly implemented development work is often slow, allowing time for skills transfer, confidence building, fundraising and the special...challenges that so frequently attend work in under-resourced communities. It can be hard to notice progress and keep energy levels high under these conditions. But with the quarterly deadline to share news with you, our generous friends, comes the opportunity to review, reflect and rejoice in the milestones of the previous three months. As always, we thank you for your part in our success.

Our last update told of our busy spring season. With five university groups in three weeks in March, we were able to make a lot of progress. The final week we hosted Hillel-YAD groups from University of California-Santa Cruz, University of Portland, and University of Oregon - 41 students in total for the week. It was a pleasure to see them working and playing together, their shared value to "heal the world" evident as they became a strong team despite their disparate collegiate affiliations.

In April we were able to catch our breath a bit and finish our giant rainwater cistern. Our Construction Manager calculates that we will be able to fill it six times over during the rainy season, ensuring a potable water supply not just for our students and staff, but also neighboring families who don't currently have a regular source of clean drinking water. We were proud to have it ready by May when Living Waters for the World (LWW) came back for their second annual visit since installing the micro-filtration system that will allow us to be of further service in our community.

Also in May, we received a service group from Florida International University (FIU). They have come each March since 2009 and it's become such a favorite destination that when they weren't able to arrange everything for their Spring Break, they decided to organize a trip after the end of the school year. As usual, they were full of energy and enthusiasm and we surely appreciate them going the extra mile to get down this year.

After hosting FIU and LWW, we welcomed a medical team from the Boston area. Two doctors and six assistants (not counting the eight month old baby that charmed all the students and their parents) provided basic physicals for 89 of our students, identifying issues that needed follow-up and checking vitals to see how our kiddos are doing. Thankfully most of the students were a-ok, other than being pretty hungry and not drinking enough water. We hope to get a breakfast or snack program started soon, and that, along with our abundance of clean water, should ensure our students meet with even greater success.

The other big news of the spring was the awarding of our first 15 scholarships for the Vanessa Morales Scholarship for Girls Education. After the tragic passing of one of our supporters last summer, our board member, Elizabeth Rose, together with Vanessa's twin sister, Yessenia, established this program to provide tuition and other support for our female students. As Yessenia was actually able to come to Guatemala and present the awards, it made the day even more special. She is also hosting a Rubbish to Runway ReFashion show, inspired by attending our similar annual event outside of Boston, in Houston on 12 July if anyone is in the area and wants to attend a fun event in support of Long Way Home and girls education.

All in all, we have not let the rain slow us down. We feel so blessed the momentum for this project has continued to grow and opened up increasing opportunity for us to support the community of San Juan Comalapa. We look forward to watching our students turn into thoughtful, conscientious leaders that will be able to use their ideas to transform Comalapa long after we have moved on to our next project. Thank you for sharing this dream with us!

Scholarships awarded
Scholarships awarded
Students from Guate City donate bottles and time
Students from Guate City donate bottles and time
FIU removing formwork from cistern
FIU removing formwork from cistern
Prepping to pour cistern lid
Prepping to pour cistern lid
New buildings - roofs catch rain!
New buildings - roofs catch rain!

Links:

 

About Project Reports

Project Reports on GlobalGiving are posted directly to globalgiving.org by Project Leaders as they are completed, generally every 3-4 months. To protect the integrity of these documents, GlobalGiving does not alter them; therefore you may find some language or formatting issues.

If you donate to this project or have donated to this project, you will get an e-mail when this project posts a report. You can also subscribe for reports via e-mail without donating.

Get Reports via Email

We'll only email you new reports and updates about this project.

Organization Information

Long Way Home, Inc.

Location: Ashland, OR - USA
Website: https:/​/​www.lwhome.org
Project Leader:
Mateo Paneitz
Executive Director
Georgetown, MA United States
$23,327 raised of $30,000 goal
 
 
513 donations
$6,673 to go
Donate Now Add Project to Favorites

Help raise money for this important cause by creating a personalized fundraising page for this project.

Start a Fundraiser

Learn more about GlobalGiving

Teenage Science Students
Vetting +
Due Diligence

Snorkeler
Our
Impact

Woman Holding a Gift Card
Give
Gift Cards

Young Girl with a Bicycle
GlobalGiving
Guarantee

Sign up for the GlobalGiving Newsletter
WARNING: Javascript is currently disabled or is not available in your browser. GlobalGiving makes extensive use of Javascript and will not function properly with Javascript disabled. Please enable Javascript and refresh this page.