Long Way Home began operations in the municipality of San Juan Comalapa, in the poor, 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 an amphitheater for presentations, classes and other community events.
While building our park, LWH realized that other local schools endure persistent problems with obtaining sufficient funding, and dedicated staff and faculty sacrifice time and money to provide educational opportunities to Comalapa’s children. Consequently, Long Way Home purchased a piece of land in 2008 in Paxan, a village one mile from the center of Comalapa, to build an education center to help address these problems.
In January 2012 the first classes were held for grades K through 5. After two years, we received our official certification to hold classes with the name Técnico Chixot Education Center. We currently have 90 students, K-7 grades. When completed it will consist of a total of 18 buildings, holding 300 students K-12: four vocational workshops, a mechanic shop, an administrative office, a cafeteria/library/computer lab, eight classrooms, an art lab and a volunteer house.
Reused, rammed-earth tires form the walls of the school building, rainwater harvesting cisterns, and retaining walls. Reused glass bottles become skylights, and trash bottle fillers line the roof and seams between tires. We have also incorporated metal waste into the rammed-earth tires. We feel that we are only scratching the surface of the creative reuses for waste materials and we are learning as much from our Guatemalan counterparts as they are from us.
It is Long Way Home’s goal to lead by example in order to demonstrate what can be achieved with the proper leadership and a will to make positive changes from the ground up. We believe that the path to real, lasting change is through youth capacity-building and we are convinced that the creative reuse of waste materials in construction is an adaptable global solution with compounded impacts. This strategy has the ability to preserve cultural and natural resources, alleviate poverty through job creation and improve health.
Long Way Home is looking for enthusiastic volunteers or groups who can choose from a variety of volunteering opportunities. The majority of volunteers work in alternative construction on the Paxán site. Work on the site includes digging, packing tires to build walls, cutting used bottles to be used in the construction of skylights and windows, collecting used tires from the surrounding towns, stuffing plastic bottles with dirt and trash and applying cobb and adobe to the internal and external buildings.
Furthermore, you also have the opportunity to teach English and environmental education to elementary children at our affiliated school (long-term volunteers), help with organic gardening and work in NGO management or IT.
Long Way Home welcomes both short- and long-term volunteers of all ages. We have facilities to house a limited number of volunteers in our volunteer house. Furthermore, volunteers can stay in our affiliated hotel or with a family. Volunteering costs range from $75 to $95 per week.
Volunteers and interns are encouraged to visit our website for more details. www.lwhome.org
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