Since we last sent a newsletter to you, our supporters around the world, Long Way Home has had a tremendous 12 months. All of this progress is made possible by many people donating time, money and professional skills, and none of this happens without this combined effort. This last year was especially successful due to the receipt of two large gifts: the previously mentioned $41,039 that was raised during our joint campaign with One Day's Wages in the summer of 2014; and a $100,000 grant from the Easterday Family Foundation in January of 2015. We have been so busy using these funds to expand our program offerings and construct new classrooms that we have failed to share our news with you on a regular basis. Please allow us to remedy that now!
The primary purpose of the grant from One Day's Wages (ODW) was to support the construction of four new primary school classrooms made from our favorite building blocks: used tires. In these four structures alone, we were able to use 1,221 car and truck tires - over 42 tons of waste that did not end up being burned or thrown in a local ravine! Each of these classrooms can hold up to 20 students and have all the benefits of this construction method: thermal mass, natural lighting and rainwater harvesting capacity. The roofs of these structures, together with the roof on their attached patio, have the capacity to harvest 2,225 gallons of water per inch of rain. Best of all, these funds allowed us to continue to provide full-time employment to an additional 11 local workers for a year.
This calendar year started off with a bang! Our largest single gift to date, from the Trustees of the Easterday Family Foundation, was a real game changer for Long Way Home. For the first time in the history of the organization, we were able to feel 100% certain that we wouldn't be scrambling for money to make ends meet at some point in the year. Their vote of confidence also had the effect of giving us a greater sense of certainty and reducing staff stress, a real factor in burnout for development workers every where.
With these funds we were able to complete our 45,000 gallon rainwater cistern and the attendant roofing on the corridor behind classrooms 1-3. Together with the roofs on the ODW classrooms, we can now harvest an additional 775 gallons of water per inch of rain, for a total of 3,000 gallons/inch. Based on data we have collected on-site from previous years, we can anticipate collecting between 35,000 and 70,000 gallons of water each rainy season, ensuring plenty of clean drinking water for our students, staff and neighbors too!
We are especially happy that through generous financial support from Easterday, ODW and individuals and volunteers around the world, we have been able to maintain a huge local crew this year. Between our 26 local construction crew and our 16 teachers and two school administrators, we have kept 44 Comalapans on payroll since March 2015. We hope to be able to continue this impact through the end of school construction, currently scheduled for 2017 when we will build the mechanic's shop and volunteer dorms with our first vocational school students.
As we move into the holiday season, we are beginning construction of the library/computer lab and have excavated for the upcoming cafeteria/classroom structure. We anticipate that this eighth classroom will serve as lab space for sciences and home economics classes, as well as providing common space for events and assemblies. We will also be finishing up the new bathrooms for the upper part of the campus. We've already constructed the septic tanks and two of the six evapotranspiration beds that will clean black water prior to it being released into the groundwater system. In addition, nearly 200 tires have been added to the east retaining wall that supports the future site of the volunteer dorms. Final floors are being poured in all seven of the new primary school classrooms and it's been fun to play with colored cement and broken glass shards to create beautiful animal designs in them.
Our other major effort this year was the completion of a baseline survey with all 89 families that we serve through our employment and/or education programs. In March 2015 we were able to hire our first Guatemalan native to the "admin" team. Gabriela Queme came to us from the Universidad del Valle where she was finishing her degree in Anthropology. She had previously participated in our joint build with Earthship Biotecture in 2013, and was eager to combine her professional skills with our ongoing efforts in Comalapa. Gaby designed and administered a 60 question survey that collected data around family income and education levels, basic household amenities (i.e. are any families still cooking over an open flame indoors with little ventilation?), land ownership, dietary habits, medical concerns, opinions about the school project, and other information that will help inform our program services in the future and allow us to evaluate impact in the future. She also conducted interviews and focus groups with several individuals so that she could gather even more qualitative data on current attitudes about our project from our constituents. Altogether, Gaby determined that we have a direct impact on 490 individuals, whether they have students at our school or employees on our staff, in some cases both. The reports she produced are currently available in Spanish* and will be translated into English and released in 2016.
Simultaneously, Gaby produced her thesis on higher education and identity in the local indigenous Kaqchikel Maya population, in conjunction with Universidad Maya Kaqchikel. With the completion of her studies she has recently accepted a position with Techo where she will be working with the community that was affected by October's mudslide in Santa Catrina Pinula that killed nearly 200 people and destroyed hundred of homes. She will be dearly missed and we wish her the best of luck in her new endeavors and hope she will continue to be engaged with Long Way Home for many years to come.
Again, thank you to our international web of supporters. Together we are the change we wish to see in the world!
~Genevieve Croker, LWH Director of Development
*Email Genevieve@lwhome.org if you're interested in reading the Spanish versions of Gabriela's reports.