Walking through the streets of Guatemala, you find trash scattered around and piled up, ignored as a problem in many parts of the country. Generally, NGOs in Guatemala either focus on environmental education or on the economic growth of an impoverished area; Long Way Home is working towards both. This non-profit is educating the community in Comolapa, Guatemala by building a school with recycled waste materials. This idea of alternative building isn’t new, but they are using this project to provided better education and employment opportunities. They are changing the mindsets of the people by demonstrating that the trash they throw out on the street really can be of use and of value.
Hudson, Dana, and I had to opportunity to visit Comolapa and the Long Way Home team. We saw first-hand the construction of the main vocational school. As we climb up to the site from the town below, a large structure, made of tires, came into focus. It was amazing to me that they had built this seven roomed structure with all recycled tires. Walking inside, the ceiling was decorated with skylights made from different colored glass bottles. This was one of about five projects they have planned for the school’s campus. The classrooms up on the hill, though not yet under construction, will be made out of earth bags (polypropylene sacks filled with soil - we didn't know either). Other buildings will be constructed with plastic bottles packed with trash gathered in the community.
Not only is Long Way Home providing a school for the community but they are raising the bar by demonstrating efficient and effective ways to be environmentally friendly. With trash piling up throughout the country, building schools with recyclables is only the start of the solution. It is wonderful to meet people in Guatemala that have such an inspirational drive to improve life in this country. Our hope is to educate our community in a similar light, but maybe not with a massive construction of tires.
Most exciting, Long Way Home is a finalist in the BBC World Challenge Competition. If you have a moment to vote for them online, it would go along way towards helping raise awareness for Guatemala and environmental issues.