Build a School from Recycled Materials for Maya

by Long Way Home, Inc.
Jul 16, 2009

A Postcard from Build a school from recycled materials for 50 Maya

Marc Maxson is GlobalGiving's Manager of Performance Analysis. This summer he traveled throughout Guatemala and visited a number of GlobalGiving projects. On May 29th he visited "Build a school from recycled materials for 50 Maya." When asked what he would tell his friends about this project, Marc said: "Incredible: You need to see this!"

Robert Dubois and I visited Long Way Home as part of our GlobalGiving staff listening tour in Guatemala. This is what we saw and heard:

Matt Paneitz led us through the community projects his organization had built outside Comalapa. A group of teens played soccer on the green field beside a healthy vegetable garden. We saw many buildings that used some sort of recycled materials and a few experimental structures, like a chicken coop, which appeared to be erected to test new mixtures of local stucco. As we walked, Matt explained his journey towards the point where they are today. This is a synopsis:

First they built a park. At night they would sit around the park and listen to the villagers.

Someone said, "I wish there was a garden."

So they built community gardens.

A girl said the soccer field was okay, but she wanted a basketball court.

So they built a basketball court.

Someone said, "I wish you would plant more trees, so we will have firewood."

So they planted a forest. They now sell the trees to pay a staff person who maintains the football field. The rest of the money goes to community projects.

Eventually it was time to build the school. But there was no money. So instead of starting by asking outsiders for money, Matt (the founder) got the idea of asking people to "pay" to enter the park by bringing them a plastic soda bottle stuffed with trash each time.

So people started bringing soda bottles stuffed with trash. The town started looking much cleaner.

Next they stacked the bottles to make walls and covered them in a mix of lime and dirt, like stucco. Now they have buildings, mostly made from free stuff.

But the bottles weren't coming in fast enough.

Someone said, "Everywhere I drive, there are discarded tires on the side of the road. Why don't we collect them all and use them?"

So they started cleaning up the highways and stacking hundreds of blown-out tires packed with dirt to make walls for the school. Next they will cover the tires with stucco to make walls. The only cost so far has been labor for 4 local workers, who live in the village and are so excited about the work no one even bothers to supervise them. But the work is on schedule nevertheless. GlobalGiving's donors pay their wages. Volunteers collect the tires.

Did you know cement factories produce 6 percent of global carbon emissions?

Long Way Home is building a school with a lot less cement and concrete.

Matt, the founder wants this school to create a new breed of environmental activist. I suggested he call these kids something new, like a recyclonista, or envirovisionary. May says the kids will learn how to think, problem solve, and find solutions for the future within the walls built of old tires, soda bottles, and other trash sources they have yet to tap. And even more, these walls may be quieter than the concrete walls that echo kid noise in a million classrooms around the world. Matt even thinks the tire-walls may be more earthquake-proof. Given the 7.1 earthquake nearby in Honduras last week, this may not only save money and resources, but also lives in the future.



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Organization Information

Long Way Home, Inc.

Location: Woodburn, OR - USA
Website: https:/​/​
Project Leader:
Mateo Paneitz
Executive Director
Georgetown, MA United States

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