As the school year has been winding down, we have had a lot of great celebrations and events here at Centro Educativo Tecnico Chixot (CETC) and excitement is definitely in the air. The kids have worked hard in projects to beautify the campus. The primary school kids have planted more flowers along our tire retaining walls along the road and painted fun new characters in front of the classrooms. They also learned about plants in class, and began planting pine trees around the school grounds, including along the edge of the fences. Our 8th graders constructed an outdoor stove, which will be a great addition to the school. The middle school P.E. finals were held, and the kids presented their routines, that they had been working on for months, to their peers. Everyone had a lot of fun and some of the volunteers participated in learning the routines with the kids prior to the final presentation. Dia del Ninos had a performance from all the teachers as well, and the children got to see their teachers dance and celebrate. The fun teachers' performances were followed by pinatas which most students got a chance at whacking and everyone enjoyed the candy. Final exams were completed and there was a ceremony for our graduating Kindergarten and 6th grade students.
This past month we hosted two back-to-back groups from the states. It was a great opportunity for Ariel, our new Volunteer Coordinator to dive into hosting service groups. Our first group that arrived was Thrive Global, an organization that aims to engage and activate community heroes to volunteer. Volunteering ranges from youth mentorship to local and global service outreach projects. We were thrilled to host Thrive Global’s first global service trip! Four awesome, hardworking women from Hawaii arrived to do a week of service with us. The first couple of days the team got quite the workout by helping to dig a trench needed for our last critical campus building. The team was a huge help with cutting and hammering plastic bottles to make waterproof shingles for one of our aulas (classrooms). They also had the pleasure to see the progress of their hard work by sifting sand that is going to be used for insulation in the finishes of our buildings. Thrive Global generously donated a large suitcase of school and construction supplies to our project. The group had a wonderful and exciting experience dancing alongside our students during their Physical Education class. They even got to teach some improvised choreography! These ladies got a first hand Comalapa cultural experience by visiting Robert and Oscar Peren’s galleries. We hope they enjoyed their time with us as much as we did!
Our next group was a Gap Year program called LeapNow that arrived for their third year with us. LeapNow allows young adults to travel and intern abroad while discovering and becoming themselves. They began their two month travel adventures in Central America, volunteering with us in Comalapa. The group consisted of ten students and two staff. The entire group volunteered with great spirits and attitude throughout the strenuous manual labor tasks; including digging trenches, pounding tires, and moving dirt. The group also helped immensely in almost completely attaching all the shingles to Aula 1. The group demonstrated their teamwork and dedication to volunteering when given the task of mixing and pouring cement to cover a water line in merely 2 hours. The team got two opportunities to participate in a cultural exchange with our Básico (middle school) students. The first was contributing to their P.E. class, learning choreography from the students and they got to teach the “Human Knot” activity. The “Human Knot” is where a group makes a tangled knot of arms and has to then try to untangle themselves without unlocking hands. Additionally, they got to spend time at Parque Chimya for Dia del Niños. One of their volunteers had fun getting to be the “King” in a game where the middle schoolers had to run and search for ten different items. They got to experience Comalapa and it’s culture by visiting a local family’s loom and tejidos (textiles). The group was fascinated and in shock when they discovered how much detail and precision it took to make tapestries and huipils (traditional woman shirt). Overall it was a wonderful week and we wish them well on their future travels!
We look forward to having both groups return with us next year!
~Ariel Wexler, LWH Volunteer Coordinator
After a long and strange rainy season this year, the tarps have come down on all buildings except for our newest (and last campus buildings!) for administration and the cafeteria.
Aulas 1-3, which are domed Earthbag structures, were started in 2013. As you probably know by now, we have been experimenting quite a bit, especially with natural finishes. Each of the 3 domes had different forms of finishing on the top half. However, this last year we have found that none of them were enough for the rains of Guatemala. Which is why they all got full transformation face-lifts this summer. We like using plastic liter bottles cut up to make "shingles", which will repel the rains and hardly ever break down, after proving to work well on the guard building. As well as, keeping in the form of innovation and creative beauty, we added stones to the top of Aula 2 and a beautiful smooth red finish on Aula 3. Since the tarps came down a few weeks ago we have had a few rains and they have already held up beautifully! We have collected water between these roofs and the roofs of Aulas 4-7 (thanks to One Days Wages) directly into our 45,000 gallon cistern, which we kept full, for it's premier rain-collecting-season!
Another big advance we have made this summer was to the Bamboo House and Tire Kitchen that will serve as a housing complex for staff/volunteers. The bamboo structure was started and designed by University of Colorado Denver in 2013. This year we had to cut down the thick cement roof to replace it with the plastic shingles, finish the inside walls and the earthen floor. A corridor was created to collect rain water and a waterfall to fill the pila that is currently being built. The corridor connects to the tire structure kitchen, whose walls have been finished and already crawling with animals. The kitchen will feature a fireplace, counter space, and a pull down Murphy bed! It is coming along quickly and we expect it to be livable by the end of the year. This complex is a great example of what we (or our future students) can do to build a home, whether it is here in Comalapa or around the world.
The Computer Lab/Library is coming along too. The walls have been built using cob (mix of mud, manure and hay), ecobricks and glass bottles to give it a beautiful effect from the inside for our future studious alumni. There are over 2,000 glass bottles between the roof and the walls. The building sits on top of the large cistern giving it a double purpose. The electricity has been installed and the finishing is being laid on the inside of the roof - made of lyme, manure and human hair.
Our most exciting prospect is the start and quickly progressing administration/cafeteria building! This is our last campus building. The tire foundation has already made it to floor level and moving along. Support Long Way Home to ensure we complete construction of these buildings in time to celebrate with you in Comalapa on February 11, 2017.
To see more photos of the construction progress, visit and like our Facebook page!
Long Way Home raised $10,000, its targeted fundraising goal, at the sixth annual Rubbish to Runway Fashion Show-Boston held at the Blue Ocean Music Hall in Salisbury, MA on October 8 this year.
Thirty-one different dresses constructed from recycled materials that included bread ties, shower curtains, old umbrellas, surfing wet suits and retired Macy plastic bags rocked the runway. Choreographed performances to music ranging from rap to the theme from “Rawhide" invigorated the models as they strutted, danced and walked the 28’ runway.
LWH’s Executive Director, Matt Paneitz, appeared onstage at his first R2R event. He spoke on behalf of the event, reminding the audience that Rubbish to Runway, now holding events in Houston and LA as well as Boston, and soon to be in Edmonton, Canada, are Long Way Home’s flagship fundraising events each year. The contributions from the night will go to the "Finishing Touches" campaign. He said he was impressed with the professionalism of the dresses, the models and the shear energy in the room.
Curator Paula Estey awarded Best in Show to designer Beth Massey for her dress “Project Bread” made from over 1000 plastic bread ties. Massey collected the bread ties from friends and family and a last minute visit to the Fantini Bakery in Haverhill, MA.
Next year’s Rubbish to Runway events will be held in LA in May, Houston in July and Salisbury, MA on October 14, 2017.
~Elizabeth Rose, Founder/Director Rubbish to Runway, Board Member LWH