Archive for September 26th, 2011

Long Way Home

Monday, September 26th, 2011

Long Way Home’s mission as a 501(c)(3) is to break the cycle of poverty among youth in developing communities by creating educational opportunities, cultivating civic interaction, and encouraging healthy lifestyles. We believe that every person has the responsibility to work towards eradicating poverty, that successful community-development is driven by hard work at the grassroots level, and that motivated individuals with appropriate training can learn to become leaders within their own communities. Long Way Home offers our volunteers the opportunity to see development work in action…both its challenges and its rewards.

Currently, Long Way Home is constructing a 17-building school complex, Técnico Maya, in San Juan Comalapa, Chimaltenango, Guatemala using alternative green construction techniques. The current Técnico Maya operates in a substandard building that often lacks running water and electricity, and due to limited government funding teachers are not paid a regular salary.  It is the only school in Comalapa that teaches in the indigenous Mayan dialect, Kaqchikel, and currently has a capacity of 31 students. When construction is complete in 2014, the new Técnico Maya will have a capacity for 400 students, and will offer courses in carpentry, masonry, mechanic, electrical, welding, horticulture, alternative construction, micro-business and environmental education, in addition to the current Técnico Maya curriculum.

The World Bank considers three quarters of Guatemala’s 13 million people to be living in poverty.  Guatemala is roughly the size of the state of Indiana and is crisscrossed by mountains. Colorful busses constantly flirt with the edges of its deep ravines. This striking country and her beautiful people are also divided by ethnic discrimination, socio-economic disparity, and sharp inequities in access to health care and education.

The “Agreement on the Identity and Rights of Indigenous Peoples” recognizes that four peoples live side by side in Guatemala: the Mayas, the Ladinos, the Garífuna and the Xinca. The Xinca and Maya are both considered indigenous groups. The Garífuna has its origins in the Caribbean. Ladinos are the people of mixed racial ancestry; they constitute 59% of Guatemala’s population. The Maya are subdivided into 21 linguistic groups, each of which has its own language. Most published information relates to the K’iche’, Kaqchikel and Q’eqchi’.

San Juan Comalapa is a rural municipality of 41,000 located in the west central highlands of Guatemala at an elevation of 7,000 ft. The area is principally dedicated to agriculture, but is also known for producing fine art and artisan works. The main sources of income are cultivation of corn and beans and production of artisan goods for sale. The ethnic composition is 97% Kaqchiquel Maya and 3% Ladino. Kaqchikel people constitute 8.7% of Guatemala’s overall population.

Until about 20-25 years ago, it was uncommon in Guatemala to use the term “Maya” to designate the contemporary “Mayas”. In reaction to foreign labels, which had for centuries underlain the social, political and economic marginalization of the indigenous peoples in Guatemala, the various indigenous organizations have begun to create a new common basis of positive Mayan identity. This expression of a new collective ethnic identity – Mayan ethnicity – has arisen out of social processes and the struggle for political participation. Although clear differences can be found among the various Mayan peoples living in Guatemala in, for example, language, ways of expressing spirituality and cultural traditions, what unites all the Mayan peoples is their past and present experience of marginalization and the resistance that has been developed to combat it. Many values shared among Mayan groups are embodied in the mission of Long Way Home’s vocational school: the value placed on community spirit, the development of working skills, a sense of responsibility for the earth and respect for culture and customs.

Long Way Home runs a volunteer and internship program, with over 100 individuals from all over the world coming to work with us each year. Some opportunities include:

International Marketing Internship

LWH is currently in need of an intern in the International Marketing sector. This internship may be continued from your home university but requires some time at our site in Comalapa, Guatemala!

Although LWH is a locally integrated non-profit, it lacks international connections. As an International Marketing intern, you will publicize LWH’s mission to the international community attracting motivated and qualified interns, volunteers and volunteer work groups.

Responsibilities (this is not an exhaustive list)

•Create marketing plans for the volunteer, voluntourism and internship programs.

•Research compatible international internship programs.

•Establish relationships with internship programs from higher level educational institutions.

•Generate public relations materials to spread awareness about LWH’s mission and accomplishments, both in Guatemala and abroad.


•Education or experience in marketing, public relations, recruitment or other related area

•Excellent writing skills

•Ability to work independently

•Ability to read and write in Spanish a plus

Grant Writing Internship

This is an excellent opportunity to learn about grant writing for a nonprofit organization. Interns will research, prioritize and apply for grants from a variety of foundations and institutions. Our vision includes investing in future projects with the aim of continually improving the Comalapan standard of living. Our ability to undertake these ventures depends on the success of future grants.

Some examples of projects you could help achieve funding:

•Construction of primary classrooms, a library, an art lab or other planned buildings.

•Increasing local labor opportunities.

•School supplies and equipment.

•Wood burning stoves for families who cook over open fires.

•Water storage tanks for families with limited access to water.

Responsibilities (this is not an exhaustive list)

•Research sources of funding for projects that LWH is planning or implementing.

•Write proposals and grants that have a good chance of being funded.

•Make a minimum three month commitment.

•Initiate other fundraising ideas.


•Experience and/or education in communications, writing, journalism and/or research.

•Interest in collaborating with a nonprofit organization.

•First year college level Spanish or equivalent.

•Some experience in writing grants preferred.

Besides applying through Smeal Symplicity, you can complete Long Way Home’s online application here.  For more information, we also have a volunteer manual located here. If you have any questions, email Long Way Home’s Volunteer Coordinator, Kristin Guité.

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