The Mayan School- final update
category: Jims Guatemala

I know I promised an update about the mayan school a LONG time ago, but things have been weird. I last posted about the construction way back in Week 8, and here we are, suddenly in Week 20! How did that happen?


Some time in Week 9, we started to have some of the problems typical in Guatemalan endeavors. A few key community leaders stopped talking to each other and the American donors, and there were some doubts about where the money was all going. Building materials, an important part of any construction project, stopped arriving in a timely manner- further reinforcing the idea that money wasn’t all going where it should. Concerned, the donor held off sending another material shipment pending verification, starting a vicious cycle. No material shipments, no progress on the work. No progress on the work, no material shipments.

About this time, the weather started to move in. The arrival of rainy season coincided with a few missed shipments of materials, and the masons left the site to look for other work. When there are no materials, there is nothing to build… and around here, if the mason isn’t working, he doesn’t get paid. One has to feed one’s family, right? Abandoned footing trenches filled with rainwater, and rusty steel reinforcing was left swinging in the breeze like barren trees after a forest fire.

After all the work I put into the project, this was very disheartening for me, but I realized that these are only temporary setbacks in a place like Guatemala. Given enough time, things start up again. But now my time has bled away, and my inflexible date of departure has nearly arrived. Without me, how will the project continue? I had hoped to be with the building at least until they completed an entire wing, to answer questions and clarify problems. If they could build one wing, doing three more would be a simple matter of re-doing what they’d done before, a really effective teaching technique here.

Last week, I went to the site and talked to León. He was pleased to inform me that they were back to work, and materials were arriving again. Although he’s a little nervous that I’m leaving, he’s still as knowledgeable and conscientious as ever. After a long conversation and a thorough look at his work so far, I feel confident that he can continue without my advice. After all, the building was designed using simple technologies and building techniques that the local workforce is comfortable with.


And me? I’ve spent my (scarce) spare moments in the last month or so working on a scale model to help with local fundraising. Models are great for helping people understand what a building will be like. I haven’t made one since college, and though it’s time consuming, I forgot how fun it is! This model is going to sit on display in a municipal office in town, so potential local donors can get excited about giving money to the cause. I’ll post some pictures when it’s done.

Speaking of fundraising, you too have an opportunity to help the project and it won’t cost you a cent. Chase Bank and Facebook are sponsoring a grant, where people vote for their favorite charities. The top 200 charities will receive a donation of $20,000. Computers for Guatemala, the sponsor for the Mayan school, is currently in contention for one of the spots. Don Livingston, the founder of CFG, told me today that they plan on spending all $20,000 on the Mayan school if they get the grant. If you have a Facebook account(1), you can go here and cast a vote for them, potentially giving the Mayan school a BIG boost. There is less than a week left to cast your vote(2), so don’t delay. Let’s get this school built!


1. It seems that Facebook will share your public info with Chase if you vote, but not your private information. You HAVE set your privacy settings, haven’t you?

2. Update: i just got these instructions from Don, in case the voting process is confusing:

1. Go to our website:
2. Click on the “Support Us” Vote box.
3. Click on: “Get Started to Vote” in Green
4. Request for Permission to Access Basic information – click on “Allow”
5. Pop up window asks you to “Like” Chase Community Giving – click on “Like”
6. Verify you are still on the Chase Community Giving Computers for
     Guatemala page
 7. Click on VOTE.  If you are not on Computers for Guatemala’s vote page, go up to “Search and Vote”    

Posted by: jfanjoy