Long Way Home began its grassroots operations in the municipality of San Juan Comalapa, in the indigenous highlands of west-central Guatemala to build a community park, Parque Chimiyá. While establishing relationships with community members we began to recognize that recreation was not top priority. We observed that people (including children) were spending significant portions of their days carrying firewood and water to their homes; incidents of diarrhea in children were high, likely due to the fact that all of the rivers and streams were polluted; kids had runny noses, likely due to a combination of indoor smoke inhalation and living in homes made from corrugated metal. Overall people were suffering because there were few solutions to their problems that fit into their price range. It was clear that these problems were interconnected and we needed to adopt a holistic approach in order to meaningfully address the barriers to social equity, a stable economy and a healthy environment.
We found that the process of green building allows for strengthening of critical thinking skills to solve local problems.
Not only have we built a campus in Guatemala, we have built structures on three continents in some of the most unimaginably harsh conditions. Although along the way we have drastically improved the lives of hundreds if not thousands of people, it is now clear that we are much stronger than what green building alone has to offer. This process gave us a collective voice. As engaged citizens what we are doing is practicing democracy.
The school will cultivate a new generation of entrepreneurs, uniquely skilled and equipped to lead their communities with innovative solutions for the future. Privately contracted construction projects will provide practicum opportunities for students, income for the school, and expand awareness and practice of sustainable building.
It is Long Way Home’s goal to lead by example in order to demonstrate what can be achieved with the civic participation 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.
Practicum will be provided to Centro Educativo Técnico Chixot students through infrastructure and development projects in their community. As shown by the data above, with 27% of the community in extreme poverty, Comalapans are in need of smoke efficient stoves, latrines, retaining walls and earth-quake resistant homes. These are all solutions that our students will be providing through their project-based democratic curriculum, as well as our construction crew which will be doing this infrastructure development and maintain reliable employment.
one village at a time
In 2018 our students, construction team and volunteers are going to use the lessons learned from building all over the world to improve infrastructure for each aldea (village) in San Juan Comalapa. By doing this, we anticipate that we will change what the public expects from its elected officials. Future politicians will have to improve their approach to seek election. Our intention is that eventually the presidency of Guatemala, and leadership globally, will be affected by this positive approach to community development.
Reflecting on our impact
"In the community it has been a really good project, really healthy. It's really healthy because, as we talked about, it has helped us to recycle a lot. At the beginning it was really annoying to do it, inconvenient! Oh, really, you have to pack it and sometimes it's returned to you- inconvenient! But you get used to it, you adjust. Now I don't feel that it's difficult. So it's good in terms of the recycling that they, with which they work, it's special. It shows, I think not just in Comalapa, or just in Guatemala, but the whole world, it can show that you can make things with trash. Yes, you can." ~ Parent of student, CETC
"What does it contribute? In two things for me more than anything - development and jobs. That is what it's contributing right now and seems like it will continue a lot more. Here we already have the school, this is already a progress, a deveopment for the community. The employment, a good amount of people here are earning fixed salaries. It is a big help to San Juan Comalapa and also for me." ~ Greenbuilder, CETC
"We are fortunate to be a part of this great institution because it is unique in our environment, ... it is an institution of heroes that should promote initiatives to care for the environment and at all times... be an example for everyone else. Our efforts will always be for the common good and not just for personal benefits that harm everyone else. There are always things to improve and we should change those... It is possible to do things in a different way, it is a matter of joint effort and volition." ~ Teacher, CETC
"En la comunidad ha sido un proyecto muy bueno, muy sano. Es muy sano porque, como de hablamos en un rato, nos ayudan a reciclar mucho. Al inicio es bien molesto hacerlo, incómodo! Ay, de veras, hay que envaso y a veces uno devuelve a uno- incómodo! Pero uno se va acostumbrando, acostumbre. Ya no siento que es difícil. Entonces es bueno en cuanto al reciclaje que ellos, con que ellos trabajan, es especial. Se demuestra, yo creo no sólo en Comalapa, ni tampoco sólo en Guatemala, sino en el mundo entero se puede demonstrar de que sí puedan hacer las cosas con los desechos. Sí se puede." ~ Padre de estudiante, CETC
"En que contribuya? En dos cosas para mi mas que todos- desarrollo y trabajo. Es lo que esta contribuyendo ahorita y parece que va a ser contribuyendo mucho mas. Aquí ya tenemos la escuela, ya es un avance, un desarrollo para la comunidad. El empleo, una buena cantidad de personas aquí ganando un sueldo fijo. Es un mas gran ayuda para San Juan Comalapa y también para mi." ~ Albañil Verde, CETC
"Somos afortunados de formar parte de esta gran institución porque es única en nuestro medio, ... es una institución de héroes que deben impulsar iniciativas para el cuidado del medio ambiente y que en todo momento sea... ejemplo para los demás. Que nuestros esfuerzos sean proyectados siempre a un bien común y no a beneficios únicamente personales que perjudiquen a los demás. Siempre hay cosas que mejorar y las cuales debemos cambiar... Es posible hacer las cosas de una manera diferente es cuestión de esfuerzo en conjunto y voluntad." ~ Docente, CETC