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Located in a small town in the southwestern highlands of Guatemala, Long Way Home uses “sustainable design and materials to construct self-sufficient schools that promote education, employment and environmental stewardship.” Founded in 2004 by a former Peace Corps volunteer, Long Way Home has since received international attention for its innovative leadership in combating waste. In addition to alternative construction, their projects include environmental education and water distribution.
[pullquote align=right]Founded in 2004 by a former Peace Corps volunteer, Long Way Home has since received international attention for its innovative leadership in combating waste.[/pullquote]The organization’s focus is on the promotion of green and alternative building practices. Their current primary project is the construction of an elementary and vocational school using rammed-earth tires and polypropylene bags, water harvesting, and trash-filled bottles. October 2014 marked the end of the first successful school year for kindergarten to 6th grade; 2015 will see the addition of 7th grade with secondary school planned for opening in 2016. Long Way Home has also partnered with Engineers Without Borders to help bring running water to rural villages near Comalapa; they have built wood-burning cookstoves and water storage tanks for families who do not consistently have running water.
Volunteers work 7am-4pm Monday-Friday, and the tasks are physically demanding: pounding dirt, plastering walls, creating art, or offering engineering services. Alternatively, volunteers who can commit to two months or more can choose to support Long Way Home’s educational efforts by teaching English, environmental education, or other skills in local schools. Long Way Home also suggests ways for supporters to volunteer from home, either before or after their trip. Volunteers can sign up for Spanish lessons as well as day trips, for an additional fee.
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Long Way Home
San Juan Comalapa, Guatemala
U.S. tel. 936/275-7807
Application Process: An application form is available online, which requires three references (at least two of which should be professional). The minimum age for individual volunteers is 18. Spots can fill up well in advance.
Cost: Individuals pay US$75 per week or US$300 per month, which includes the accommodations (volunteers are responsible for their meals). One-week group trips are US$600 per person and include accommodations and meals, as well as transportation between Guatemala City and Comalapa, one town tour, one cultural night, and one overnight excursion to Antigua or Lake Atitlán.
Placement Length: The recommended placement length is 1-3 months for individuals and one week for groups.
Language Requirements: There are no language requirements for building projects. Intermediate Spanish is required for teaching.
Housing: Volunteers stay at a guesthouse at the community park. The guesthouse has a kitchen, and volunteers typically purchase and prepare food communally (meals at the guesthouse are mostly vegetarian). There is electricity but no hot water. Homestays are available for an additional fee (US$10 per week), or volunteers can stay in a simple hotel (US$20 per week).
Operating Since: 2004
Number of Volunteers: Approximately 200 in 2012.
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Excerpted from the First Edition of Moon Volunteer Vacations in Latin America.