In March of 2015, Hillel leaders at Lewis & Clark College led an alternative spring break trip to San Juan Comalapa, Guatemala! The trip focused on service, issues of sustainability, and interfaith discussion. A wide group of students of all majors, backgrounds, and grades came together to serve, learn, and grow.
The group worked with Long Way Home, a non-profit that uses sustainable design and materials to construct self-sufficient schools and empower local communities. The organization began in 2004 with a grassroots community development strategy to bring local residents together. Their first project was a community park. In 2009, LWH began construction on an environmentally friendly elementary, middle, and vocational school complex. This year the school has 91 students enrolled!
LWH’s school complex has 18 buildings planned, with 14 already completed or in their final stages of construction. Lewis & Clark students helped with the construction of some of these final buildings. While in Guatemala, the group worked on theconstruction of these final buildings. We built railings, cobbed mud to the walls, filled water bottles with trash, and pounded tires to construct foundations. As part of the sustainable focus of the organization, many of the buildings are constructed using bottle bricks (water bottles packed with trash) and old tires. So far LWH has used over 12,000 tires in construction. Waste is a very pressing issue in Guatemala and LWH is working hard to find creative solutions to the problem.
Over the week of working in San Juan Comalapa, the group learned the value of hard labor, and how to build fences, mix mud, and pour concrete. We spoke to a variety of community members and LWH volunteers in order to gain a broad understanding of the organization’s position within the community. We spoke to the founders, local workers, and a Gaby, who’s conducting an ethnography of LWH.
In total, the week we spent in San Juan Comalapa was an amazing experience of learning, growth, and connections.
See more images from the trip. Photo Credit: Rachel Perry and Kara Scherer