Building a bottle school in Guatemala was a life changing experience for our family.
You’re probably wondering, “What’s a bottle school?” A bottle school is a school built using plastic bottles stuffed with inorganic trash. The bottles are bound between chicken wire and then covered with cement to form walls. This makes eco-bricks.
In many rural areas of Guatemala they don’t have garbage service so they tend to have a lot of trash lying around. Bottle schools not only provide a place for the kids to learn but also cleans up the environment by recycling the bottles and trash.
The community does about 90% of the work on the bottle school project and volunteers come in to support and help them. The community has to collect and stuff the bottles before the project can begin. It takes approx. two hours to stuff one bottle with trash and it requires about 10,000 bottles to build a two room school.
We met our team of volunteers the first day we arrived in Guatemala and by the time we left seven days later they had become like family to us.
On our first day at the school site we were warmly greeted by the community. They lined up as we exited the buses and gave us flowers and lots of smiles. They performed native dances and welcomed us with open arms. From the moment we arrived we felt so much love and gratitude from them.
This is what the school looked like when we first arrived
Many of the kids gravitate toward certain people and form a special bond with them. It’s amazing how you can communicate and connect at a heart level without using words. If we wanted help, the staff at Hug It Forward would translate for us.
The community along with the kids worked side by side with us. Everyone pitched in and worked together, which was a beautiful experience. The kids were in the mud and rain working in their school dresses, uniforms and nice shoes without ever complaining, and somehow they stayed clean.
Destiny and I tying bottles into the wall
During a break my daughter Destiny and I taught the girls some hand games. We all laughed together as I tried to learn some of the new ones along with them. It was a lot of fun!
It was so nice to come back after our lunch and see a group of girls laughing and playing the games we had taught them. As silly as it may seem, I felt like we left them with something to remember us by that they could take with them anywhere they go and teach to their children someday.
One of the things I loved about the experience is that we got to know more about the culture and life in Guatemala. Hug it Forward had people from the community come and talk with us and share about different topics and what life is like for them. I’ll be sharing more about that in a future blog post.
Saying goodbye was hard. There were lots of hugs and tears.
The school held an inauguration ceremony on Sept. 18, 2015. I’m so happy for the children who now have a classroom to learn in. The volunteers, staff and community will forever hold a special place in our hearts.
You can read more about our trip HERE.
NOTE: We signed up for this volunteer trip through our travel club which is partnered with Hug It Forward. They are a non-profit organization that has a vision of a “world where every child has the opportunity to get an education, and to create a better life for themselves and for their families.” You can learn more about their mission and how the schools are built on their website at Hug It Forward.org
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