In February we made a donation of school supplies to Long Way Home, a non-profit started by Matt/Mateo Paneitz. Matt is a son of our friend Janet. She bought some school supplies locally, because they are better quality and more plentiful, and took them when she flew to attend the “ribbon cutting/dedication” celebration. Matt entered the Peace Corp in 2001, for 4 years, and while in Guatemala saw a real need for a school. He came back to the US and sold raffle tickets to the only thing he owned, a perfect condition vintage car, to raise money to start his non-profit. I really encourage you to go to the website http://www.lwhome.org and read Matt’s story…but below is a portion of the information.
Long Way Home began operations in the municipality of San Juan Comalapa, in the indigenous highlands of west-central Guatemala in 2004, with a grassroots community development strategy to bring local residents together to learn about eco-friendly living, appropriate sustainable technologies, and improved waste management solutions. Together with our neighbors, we built a community park, Parque Chimiyá, on five acres of rural land. The park features a tree nursery, terraced organic gardens, a regulation grass soccer field, a basketball court and a playground. Parque Chimiyá has a volunteer house for domestic and international volunteers and interns, a community kitchen and a pavilion for presentations, classes and other community events.
At Parque Chimiyá, there is a small admission fee of US$0.25 for park users, but young children can bring recycled plastic bottles packed with inorganic trash in lieu of money. We use these “trash bottles” in our current construction projects. The youth response to the trash bottle program has been overwhelming. This campaign has already reduced municipal litter, introduced local families to a new waste management solution, and created a stream of building materials for Long Way Home’s construction projects. From 2008 through 2011, over 28,000 trash bottles were collected in lieu of park admission fees. In 2012, Long Way Home was pleased to return administration of the park to our local partner, Chuwi Tinamit, the organization that originally commissioned us to develop their property.
In 2008, LWH purchased land in the village of Paxán, one half mile from Comalapa’s urban center, to build an elementary, middle and vocational school complex. Construction began in January of 2009 and will be finished in 2016. In 2012 Long Way Home welcomed its first 21 students in grades 2nd-5th. In 2013 we achieved official approval from the Guatemalan Ministry of Education and we have 118 students in grades K-8th in the 2016 academic year! Our teachers and Directora are all Comalapa natives.
Environmental education will be a focus of the school’s enhanced curriculum. From organic gardening to environmentally friendly construction methods, local youth will be learning about the inextricable link between environmental health and physical well-being. In addition to the standard educational curriculum, the vocational school will offer coursework in carpentry, masonry, mechanics, electrical, welding and horticulture. The school will cultivate a new generation of entrepreneurs, uniquely skilled and equipped to lead their communities with innovative solutions for the future. Long Way Home’s role is to fund-raise for the project, construct the school, build school staff capacity, and oversee the new curriculum’s implementation.
As you can see they are teaching in more ways than a standard school classroom. They are impacting, reaching and teaching the whole community. The school will soon go to the 12th grade. They have completed 14 of the 18 building on campus. Can you believe most of this was built with trash but it sure doesn’t look “trashy”…it is very artistic and beautiful. Glass bottles as skylights, rammed earth and metal used tires as walls and steps, smashed aluminum cans as color and decor on the outside, trashed filled bottles line the roof and seams between tires and more. Below are some of the pictures.
We are so glad to have helped in a small way. I’m sure we will be supporting the school again sometime in the future. I applaud Matt for the life changing impact he has made on the community and these children lives…job well done!