By Matt Paneitz
I spent over a decade in San Juan Comalapa, Guatemala helping to transform 500 tons of trash (including 15,000 used tires) into a school campus.
Many would call it “a crazy endeavor”.
Through this work I started an NGO called Long Way Home with a mission “to use sustainable design and materials to construct self-sufficient schools that promote education, employment and environmental stewardship.” Our vision is to empower communities to break the cycle of poverty through innovative solutions to local challenges.
In 2015 I enrolled at Goddard to get my MA in Education after having already graduated there with a BA in Sustainability. I came back for more. I wanted to design a John Dewey-infused curriculum to encourage sustainability initiatives at every grade level.
Josseline Morales was a 7th grader at Long Way Home when we started. As part of her education at Long Way Home, she and her classmates selected a village overwhelmed with extreme poverty to develop sustainably. They surveyed the community, built stoves, water tanks, compost latrines, retaining walls, and parts of homes to elevate their fellow community members standard of living.
When I told my Goddard faculty advisors about my idea, I had a feeling that I might be coming across as a little crazy. But rather than attempt to relocate my enthusiasm towards something more realistic, they responded with a resounding, “Yes. You’re crazy. How can we help?”
The entire Goddard community was and is an ongoing source of inspiration and support. They made a significant impact in the establishment of Long Way Home.
In October 2019, Josseline Morales along with 11 others graduated from our Goddard-inspired high school. Josseline, a Kaqchikel woman, was one of our first nine students to start classes as a 7th grader in 2012. She is from a 97% indigenous town in western Guatemala, is now off to college and is the first in her family to do so. They graduated as heroes and were celebrated by their community as such.
Josseline had this to say about her education at Long Way Home:
“My dream is to help women because I think the rights of women have been the most affected ones in our society and I would like to acquire new knowledge that allows me to help them. I would also like to continue working for the environment because that was the main focus of the education I received here. I learned a lot about the environment. For example, that we depend on nature and nature depends on us. So another goal of mine is to help create projects that are beneficial to nature and the environment.”
Josseline hopes to attend college and pursue a degree in Law.
Thank you Goddard College!
LONG WAY HOME VALUES:
Long Way Home considers the following values integral to our operations:
- Every person has a responsibility to fight poverty.
- We learn by doing and lead by example.
- Ethical and responsible financial management lead to higher impact.
- Learning is a lifelong process and flows in both directions, from us to our partner communities and from our partner communities to us.
- The future of the planet is affected by our daily decisions.
- There are leaders in all of us.
To read Josseline’s story in her own words, go to lwhome.org
To find out more about Goddard’s unique offerings for Bachelor of Arts in Education and Master of Arts in Education, Master of Arts in Social Innovation & Sustainability, and Dual Language Early Childhood Education visit Goddard.edu