Below a ridge running from east to west, right in the southeast of Guatemala is Nuevo Paraiso, a small tropical village with an altitude of 930 meters above sea level, where rain falls almost daily.Between paved roads and coffee there are about 52 families. There are around 300 people in total, mostly laborers who do not have own land and are forced to work on farms outside. For three months these Guatemalans woke up every day to complete a large environmental project: a new school made of plastic bottles and inorganic waste.For many years, Nuevo Paraiso did not have a school – the community’s 52 students were currently attending classes on the verandah of someone’s private property and in a makeshift shelter with a dirt floor. Students from ages 4-15 attended classes together, creating a challenging and distracting environment for both teacher and pupil. Furthermore, animals could easily enter the area where classes were held, creating a further disturbance.

Working alongside Peace Corps volunteer Justin Hargesheimer, Nuevo Paraiso residents participated in the process of collecting 6,500 plastic bottles and filling them with garbage like nylon, chip packets, and plastic bags to create “eco-bricks” to be used in the walls of the future school. In addition to helping keep the community free of litter, this process reduced construction costs and taught important lessons about caring for the environment.

Location: Nuevo Paraiso, El Tumbador, San Marcos, Guatemala
Population: 306
Elementary School
Classrooms: 2
School number: 12
Birthday: August 21st, 2011