Tecpan, Guatemala July 2023
Justin (my son) and I ventured from Chicago to Miami and from Miami to Guatemala City, Guatemala. We are serving, learning, exploring, and traveling to Guatemala with Hug it Forward, https://hugitforward.org/ , on a service, mission, culture, education, and ecological trip. Hug it Forward works with Serve the World – they are two organizations dedicated to making the world a better place. The Hug it Forward Bottle School Project is what Justin and I are investing our time in during this trip. Together with about 15 other people from the US States of Illinois, Georgia, Oregon, Texas, Minnesota, & New York, plus group members from France, we are working with our Guatemalan hosts, friends, and leaders.
Hug it Forward has engaged in about 140 bottle school projects over the past decade.
From their website, describing what a Bottle School is:
Bottle classrooms are constructed using eco-bricks, which are plastic bottles stuffed with inorganic trash. During the project process, entire communities come together to build a more environmentally responsible educational space for their future.
Bottle classrooms are built using eco-bricks, which are plastic bottles stuffed with inorganic trash. Our bottle classrooms are built using the established method of post-and-beam construction. The foundations, columns and beams are made from concrete reinforced with rebar. Unlike cinder-blocks which are not very environmentally responsible, we use eco-bricks in our constructions. As a result, our projects are much cheaper to build when compared to the more traditional building methods and materials, they work to clean up the environment, provide the space for real discussion about local environmental obstacles, and involve the entire community in their construction, resulting in a sense of pride and ownership
The people of Zaculeu collected 10,000 (yes, ten thousand) plastic drink bottles, filled them with debris to make them stable and full, and these became the “eco-bricks” to find a home as insulation in the walls of their school’s new classrooms. If they did not collect the “trash” it would have been burned, discarded, or placed in a landfill. The community collected the bottles and the trash – they cleaned up their area, their streets, their homes – and they prepared to welcome us to help them construct the walls of their school. Private donors funded the costs via donations to Hug it Forward for the skilled laborers to construct the flooring, roofs, structure, and masonry – some other Hug it Forward groups helped the skilled laborers, the government of Guatemala funded the masonry, and our group built the walls with the students of the school and members of the community! Our bottle school project was with the community, by the community, and with our help – it’s their lasting legacy of ecological awareness, activism, and educational commitment.
Subsequent blog posts will share more details and more images!