Long Way Home began in 2005, after our founder, Matt Paneitz, volunteered with the Peace Corps in San Juan Comalapa. He worked with his local partner and NGO, Chuwi Tinamit, to build a recreational area in the rural indigenous Mayan town in the Western Highlands of Guatemala. The park consists of a recreation sized soccer field, terraced organic gardens, a basketball court, community kitchen and playground. During the development of Parque Chimiya, Matt realized that there are more pressing needs for the people of Comalapa and Guatemala. There is a huge unemployment rate, lack of education, and environmental issues such as the streets being lined with trash. Therefore he decided to change the mission of Long Way Home to address these needs of Employment, Education, and Environmental Stewardship.
Long Way Home bought land in Comalapa in 2008 to build a sustainable school. We broke ground in 2009, to start on the 18 building green academy that we expect to finish construction on in 2016. The alternative methods of construction we use include tires packed with dirt, plastic bottles stuffed with inorganic trash, and natural and locally sourced materials. We have used over 400 tons of trash in the construction of our projects and over 13,000 tires! Our 26 local construction workers are learning unique skills that they can use in the workforce to create jobs and build within their community. In 2013 we achieved official approval from the Guatemalan Ministry of Education for our own green academy, Technico Chixot. We have 90 students in grades K-7th in the 2015 academic year! Our teachers and Directora are all Comalapa natives. The vocational school will turn the youth into architects of their own future by giving them environmental education, critical thinking, and these unique alternative building methods to become leaders in their communities.
We are proud of our achievements and to have placed third in the BBC World Challenge 2010. In 2011, Long Way Home was named the Small Charity of the Year by StayClassy, on online Social Fundraising platform sponsoring the largest philanthropic awards event in the United States.