Putting Your Dollars to Work

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!

Soon we will pour the floor for the patio for the four new tires classrooms

Soon we will pour the floor for the patio for the four new tires classrooms

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.

Gaby interviewing our foreman romeo's mother and wife

Gaby interviewing our foreman romeo's mother and wife

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.

Doing Well by Doing Good - Switch to Process Green!

Long Way Home is proud to announce its new partnership with Process Green, an industry leader in credit card processing. Process Green has raised the philanthropic bar, and created a strategic business investment model for others to follow. Through our relationship with Process Green, business owners will have the opportunity to secure "minimal cost pricing" for their credit card processing rates and support Long Way Home simultaneously. Process Green has agreed to review your merchant account, prepare a 'cost-comparison/savings' analysis and will donate 10% of their profit to Long Way Home on your behalf every year. Process Green is investing in your business and our non-profit organization through a service that is a necessity for companies. By allowing Process Green to review your merchant account, you will be able to lower your current credit card processing rates and use the profit to put back into your business and contribute to Long Way Home's education, employment and environmental programsPlease visit our Process Green page and sign up at the bottom to let Process Green know that you are interested in supporting Long Way Home and saving money for your business: http://processgreen.com/222N. Thank you, as always, for your support! Together we are the change!

Many Hands Make Light(er) Work

University of Pennsylvania students  spent hours on the roof cleaning the glass bottle skylights.

University of Pennsylvania students  spent hours on the roof cleaning the glass bottle skylights.

This spring, we had a full house with back-to-back school groups from the United States! It started in March with our very first Ivy League school, the University of Pennsylvania. With thirteen student and staff volunteers from the campus Hillel program, it presented a great opportunity for our new volunteer coordinator, Robin, to learn the ropes of hosting a service group. The team made roof shingles out of plastic bottles, cleaned the glass bottle skylights on the roofs of classrooms 4-7, shoveled and sifted sand, and then participated in a cement pour for the floor of the 45,000 gallon rainwater cistern! We capped off the week with an excursion to Lake Atitlan, visiting the Chabad and enjoying the Israeli community in San Pedro.

Middle schoolers from Nobles worked cheerfully at any task they were assigned

Middle schoolers from Nobles worked cheerfully at any task they were assigned

Antonia's lunches: delicious and filling

Antonia's lunches: delicious and filling

The next week, a team arrived from Noble and Greenough School outside of Boston, Massachusetts. The team consisted of 16 sixth and seventh graders, and four adult staff. They worked extremely hard and had incredible leaders that were energetic and motivating. One morning, our Técnico Chixot students hosted a soccer tournament with another local school at Parque Chimiya. They invited the girls and boys from Nobles to play with the 6th grade teams. It was fantastic seeing them play together, especially as some of the Comalapan girls were taught how to play about 30 seconds before they went on the court. Meanwhile, the Nobles' girls towered over everyone by at least 6" and were missing soccer practice in Boston to be here for the week in Guatemala. Afterward, several of our local teachers joined up with three of the Nobles' teachers to take on the staff of the other school in a game. All in all, it was a fun week and we were overwhelmed with the effort and enthusiasm put forth by the visiting middle schoolers!

Just a day and half later, we had three west coast Hillel groups - students from the University of Oregon, Lewis & Clark College from Portland, and UC-Santa Cruz, totalling 40 people! Everyone got along seamlessly, worked hard and played hard too; Feliciano's hotel was a great setting for after work card games and inter-campus bonding time. With so many people on site we accomplished many different projects - building a fence with Felix below the school, making a railing out of trash bottles above classrooms 1-3, mixing cob and throwing it between tires in classroom 7, pounding tires, prepping the gutters on the roofs of classrooms 4-7 and placing the plastic shingles on the current Principal's office. By Friday only one group was left to work, as the others left for their excursion to Antigua.  Portland Hillel stayed and we did a huge cement pour of the walls and columns of the cistern, standing on the edge tossing buckets back and forth of cement. Then we left for Antigua the next day to join the other groups, concluding our incredibly productive March.

Florida international university takes apart forms so they can be re-used

Florida international university takes apart forms so they can be re-used

In the beginning of May, Florida International University alternative Break  returned for their 5th year in a row. They had eight students with them from all different majors, and they were excited to be here after working hard to raise more than the funds they needed for the trip! They brought with them two large suitcases filled with clothes and toys and donations for the students and volunteers. Aside from their initial generosity, they helped out laying bottles in the septic tank, cleaning up our welcome sign, and cutting glass bottles for skylights. We hope to see them again in 2016!

Gym class offered some hysterical challenges

Gym class offered some hysterical challenges

This fall brought our fourth visit from California-based LeapNow, with 13 people just beginning a journey through Central America over the next several months. They soaked up the culture by experiencing some of the best that Comalapa has to offer, hiking up to the top of the ridge near Parque Chimiya and touring hotel owner Feliciano's favorite places around town! They also accomplished a lot of work here at the school, tending our gardens, beautifying our new railings, helping to secure the rainwater system, and applying finish plasters on classrooms 4-7. In two groups, they assisted the Physical Education teacher with morning classes, allowing them to bond with our students. They were here for more than the normal week, and it still seemed they left too soon! We wish them well on their travels and hope they send us more great interns like Pip from last year’s group.

~Robin Rutchik, LWH Volunteer Coordinator

Coming to Learn, Staying for Love

Will, New Electrician extraordinaire

Will, New Electrician extraordinaire

Making a Scrim for the Children's Day Productions

Making a Scrim for the Children's Day Productions

After a month-and-a-half of traveling from place to place in southern Mexico, I was looking to settle for a week or two in a nice, peaceful environment. Guatemala was the next country down and it seemed like a beautiful place to help out the local population. After some research I landed on the Long Way Home project and headed to Comalapa. During the first few days I helped out where I could around the construction site, mixing all kinds of materials to cover the tire walls. I was eventually assigned to be Raul's assistant for some electrical work. After figuring out a few important Spanish words of the trade - wire, outlets, current...shocks - I really got into it! At the end of the week I had no intention of leaving this beautiful place as I had originally planned.

During my second week I kept on doing electrical work (my new specialty) and quickly gained some autonomy and trust from the work crew. I worked on multiple little projects and started to appreciate the positive impact I was having here. Lights and outlets started working for the first time, which is great for a construction site which uses power tools! Two weeks had now gone by, yet there was so much more I could do here...

Over the weekend I consulted my family back in Canada and found a great deal of interest and support for what was going on here.  My grandparents really liked seeing the pictures of the students in the beautiful classrooms and they made it financially possible for me to stay for two more weeks! I have now been volunteering here for a month and it has been a great experience!

Snack Lady brings super tasty treats

Snack Lady brings super tasty treats

So here I am on my last days at LWH, thinking of the amazing times passed and the little routine I settled into here: walking up to the construction site every morning through the strawberry and corn fields, working for a few hours in the morning anticipating snack time at 10:00 when a lady brings a ton of delicious little Guatemalan dishes, succeeding and failing at different electrical puzzles throughout the day and going to bed totally exhausted after a good dinner. That's a pretty satisfying day, no?

Will assisting with a hummingbird rescue

Will assisting with a hummingbird rescue

I was originally attracted to the project because of the recycled materials used for the buildings and by the prospect of learning how to build them, but that is not why I stayed. Working side by side with the primary school full of tiny little kids enjoying the incredible domed shiny structures which they call their classrooms really gave a meaning to all the hard work.

A big thanks to the incredible people at LWH who make life here so amazing and meaningful. Good luck with the project and spreading the recycled materials building method; it's the future.     

Á la revoyure!
William Mondou, Québec

First Physicals for Many Students

The medical team, including eight-month-old sandy sinclair, LWH's Youngest volunteer yet!

The medical team, including eight-month-old sandy sinclair, LWH's Youngest volunteer yet!

From Monday, May 18 through Wednesday, May 21, 2015, two United States physicians and six medical assistants performed medical histories and physical examinations on 89 of the 90 students of Centro Educativo Técnico Chixot. This project was lead by Joe Hull, MD and Elizabeth Rose, MSW, MS, board member of Long Way Home. The other participants were: Alyse Fiamma, Casey Sussman, Giulia Fleishman, Olivia Hull, Alex Sinclair, and Stephanie Sinclair, MD, our second doctor.

Learning how to use the equipment

Learning how to use the equipment

The group stayed at Feliciano Perén’s Hotel Comalapa Sol. The Sunday before the exams were to commence, Dr. Joe (locally called Dr. "Yo"), introduced the history and physical form the group would be using to document the findings. The clinical data collected included: Temperature; Screening urinalysis using urine test strips to detect blood, protein, sugar, and signs of infection; Blood pressure and pulse; Height and weight; a physical exam with the doctors including listening to heart and lungs, palpating abdomen, using an otoscope and ophthalmoscope for looking in ears and eyes, and a tongue depressor to check throat and tonsils; and finally, a verbal interview with student and, when available, an accompanying parent, to review medical history and current problems. Joe also taught the basics of taking temperatures, blood pressures, pulses, and the urinalysis to the group.

In general, Dr. Stephanie Sinclair examined the girls and Dr. Joe Hull examined the boys. The group decided to use Casey and Olivia as escorts, shepherding the students between stations and assisting with translation from English to Spanish and back again. These interpreters were also an essential presence in each student’s examination, ensuring clear communication between the doctors, parents and children.

The remaining volunteers received station assignments - Giulia at urinalysis, Alex at temperatures, Elizabeth at height and weight, and Alyse at blood pressure and pulse.  This structure worked well and was used throughout the three days of exams.

The medical form was distributed to each student’s parents about a week in advance so they could record the child’s medical history and current symptoms or problems. Many were in attendance to speak with the doctors about the results of the exams and the reasons why some students were referred to the Centro de Salud in Comalapa for further evaluation.

The parents helping us brainstorm the new smoothie program

The parents helping us brainstorm the new smoothie program

Conclusions:

The most common complaints were abdominal pain and headaches. The doctors and staff have concerns that the students are not drinking enough water nor eating regularly. When they complain of thirst parents often give them soda, and they seem to be drinking only one glass of water per day, on average. Over the summer, LWH staff member Gabriela Queme surveyed every student's family and found that 32% of our children don't receive breakfast and many of those that do receive only a cup of coffee and a piece of sweet bread. As a result of the medical mission and the survey results, LWH is planning to implement a breakfast smoothie program in 2016 utilizing local fruits, veggies grown in the school gardens, and a natural supplement, such as amaranth, also grown on site. It is our hope that providing a nutritious and delicious licuado each morning will improve students' abilities to concentrate and feel more comfortable during the school day.

~Elizabeth Rose, LWH Board Member

Haute Trashion on the Runway at the 5th Annual ReFashion Show

Marion Brite in "Dumpster Diety"

Marion Brite in "Dumpster Diety"

Couture met trash once again in Long Way Home’s annual Rubbish to Runway ReFashion Show on October 17 in Newburyport, MA.  Thirty-one different outfits made of post-consumer waste designed by 28 artists walked the runway to the applause of a sell-out crowd in what has become a trademark fundraiser for LWH.

Materials as varied as inflated plastic bags, curled surfing magazine pages, feather headdresses, old banners, and crocheted soda can tabs commanded the stage. Models as young as 10 walked to individually selected rock and pop tunes while emcee Frank Santorelli, comedian and past cast member of The Sopranos TV series, introduced both the artist, the ideas behind each design, and the model.

The dresses were displayed for a week following the R2R event at the Paula Estey Art Gallery (PEG), also located in Newburyport. Eight dresses with price tags were placed on dress forms among the art. The display captured the attention of walk-by visitors as well as brought in many who missed the Saturday night show.

Gown crafted from Benjamin Obdyke remnant

Gown crafted from Benjamin Obdyke remnant

“The dresses melded beautifully with the sculpture already in place and attracted a lot of window interest. One dress sold,” Estey said.

“Of course, once the event is over we begin planning for next year’s R2R. We have plans to change venues and open it up to 350 people next year. We also want to involve the manufacturers of the materials we use in more sponsorship opportunities. This year, the Benjamin Obdyke Company gave us a nice donation because a remnant of their interior rain-screen was used in an outfit. Getting the manufacturers involved raises the bar for their recycling practices and makes a sustainability statement,” said Elizabeth Rose, founder and director.

The R2R event raised $10,000 to begin a pilot breakfast program and support construction of a new cafeteria for the school campus. The target for the funds was selected after seven volunteers conducted physicals on the student body in May and discovered that many children were coming to school poorly fed.

Rendering of planned cafeteria/classroom by Bonnie Adams

Rendering of planned cafeteria/classroom by Bonnie Adams

LWH staffer Gabriela Queme further studied the nutrition of students over the summer. She found that 32% of students do not receive breakfast before school and an additional 4% only receive it sometimes. Even those that do get breakfast often get only a piece of bread and a cup of coffee. Parents frequently provide a sugary drink to quench children’s thirst because of the scarcity of good quality water. Here at Long Way Home we are taking a holistic approach to education, and this includes helping our students be physically and mentally prepared to learn. The new cafeteria and breakfast program will support these efforts in a huge way! Thank you to all the attendees, volunteers, donors and artists who made this year's Rubbish to Runway reFashion Show a tremendous success.

~Elizabeth Rose, LWH Board Member

Cheatin' for Charity

Boomerz was bumpin' all afternoon

Boomerz was bumpin' all afternoon

The first annual “Cheatin' for Charity” event was held October 17, 2015 in the heart of Austin, TX.  All proceeds went to support building a library/computer lab for the Técnico Chixot Education Center located in San Juan Comalapa, Guatemala. Lifelong Texas friends, as well as new amigos, gathered at Boomerz Club and Bar to learn more about Long Way Home's school project and participate in a benefit poker tournament with a twist.

The afternoon began with the recounting of old stories about growing up in Lufkin, TX where LWH's founder, Matt Paneitz, was raised. The event quickly turned into meeting of Austin community members who came together for one purpose: to support the students.

Alexandra, proud winner of the diplomat.

Alexandra, proud winner of the diplomat.

Once the rules of the game were announced by event host, Mike Minns, the fun began. All gamers paid an entrance fee to buy-in and receive their special deck of cards. If caught cheating, they paid an additional fee to return to the game. The overall winner of the day would win a 1978 Dodge Diplomat donated by Mike. This creative concept made it easy for all parties to have a great time laughing and enjoying various styles of poker at each table.

Gamers were encouraged to take breaks during their card games to bid on the silent auction items. Auction items included: a Sony Smart TV donated by Boomerz Club and Bar; a 3 night, 4 day vacation at a beach house near Galveston, donated by Larry Cain; a case of wine donated by Greg & Kara Paneitz of Wooldridge Creek Winery; and a solar pack donated by Ivan Vargas of Moo-chila. As the afternoon passed, it became evident that Alexandra R. was slated to be the overall winner of the Cheatin' for Charity event and would be driving away in her new Dodge. We are excited to announce that the event raised $2,000 and the library/computer lab on the Comalapa campus is closer to a reality. We hope to see this become an annual event. LWH would like to give a special thanks to Boomerz Club and Bar, Event Sponsors Mike Minns, aka Mr. Dream home, and Jason Palm of Palm Lending, and super volunteers, Eloy Fernandez and Elisa Kerr, for helping the event to be a great success.

~Elisa Kerr, LWH Volunteer