In support of its mission, LWH’s committed community of volunteers and staff have joined together to design and build a campus in San Juan Comalapa, Guatemala that now provides a vibrant, accessible, and democratic education to over a hundred children, grades K-12. Students attending Técnico Chixot Education Center increase their literacy skills and thus their economic sustainability; they also learn first hand what it means to be an active participant and contributor to a developing democratic society. Additionally, the Center’s students engage in service learning projects that provide opportunities for them to utilize their passions and imaginations as well as problem-solving skills. They work cooperatively, creatively, and resiliently to develop their own minds and hearts in projects that build capacity in their local communities.
According to political thinker and educator John Dewey, who developed experimentalism and is a primary influence shaping LWH’s philosophy, “education must first be human”. With this in mind the organization places people and sustainable living at the center of its school community where environmentally consciousness living and green building techniques are taught as well as modeled.
LWH is a mission-driven organization that works to resist the forces of economic and environmental devastation through education. Enacting teaching and learning “as a practice of freedom”, LWH directs its initiatives and resources to break the cycle of poverty through the formulation and practice of ground-breaking solution-oriented effort.
In a time of global crisis when people and the natural world face growing challenges to livelihood and sustainability, LWH responds with thoughtful and data-driven humanitarianism; facilitated through creative problem-posing strategies, imaginative experimentation, and courageous exploration. In keeping with this guiding principle, LWH is an innovative and pioneering research institute dedicated to the gathering and analysis of data relevant to its mission.
PAR is a democratic problem-solving process that incorporates both the specialized knowledge of experts and the practical knowledge of local communities as a basis for defining and understanding problems and devising solution options. (Remington/Douchette 2016)
Utilizing Participatory Action Research as its methodology of inquiry, LWH staff performs meticulous quantitative and qualitative analysis of information that is gathered in tandem with local and international communities. With democratic principles of living and learning reflected in mind and action, LWH applies solution-oriented approaches that are informed and inspired by application and practice. In this context, LWH has developed its expertise in green building techniques through years of experimentation, implementation, and evaluation. This process of developing environmental consciousness and economic justice through green building in relationship to appreciative inquiry requires critical observation, creative problem solving, thoughtful action, and analytical thinking. The result is to construct local solutions for problems that need to be addressed. LWH works to create a just world through facilitating hands-on educational experiences guided by democratic principles with the goal of sustaining self-determination for all, including those who have been historically marginalized.
LWH hosts and continues to seek international volunteers who believe that critical work is still needed, where people can live sustainably and in harmony with the natural world. Volunteers have significantly contributed to LWH’s success as a mission-driven organization. LWH, through its democratic educational initiatives, has, in turn, encouraged its community of volunteers to become more actively engaged learners and citizens.
LWH provides dynamic, place-based, and experiential educational opportunities to learn green building design and construction methodologies. It also reinforces personal and professional growth in the realms of knowing, being, and doing (head-hands-heart) where participants in its educational programs are invited to think critically and work collaboratively to address problems that challenge a vital sense of place, health and well being, and ultimately participate in democratic life.