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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.

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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.

If the people lead, the leaders will follow...
— Ghandi

one village at a time

In 2019 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. 

Boege, Sarah (2017) Beyond Buzzwords: A Case Study of U.S. NGO Implementation of Sustainable and Participatory Development in Rural Guatemala. Oregon State University

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