Meet Project Somos.
Project Somos is based in Tecpán, in the central highlands of Guatemala, and was started in 2007 by Greg and Heather Knox, with the vision of building an eco-sustainable village for vulnerable children in Guatemala.
UNICEF states that 90% of the world’s orphans still have family. The children becoming orphans as the result of extreme poverty and the children being surrendered to care and removed from the family.
In 2010 a beautiful piece of land was purchased by a generous Canadian donor who believed in their vision.
In 2011 they moved from Vancouver, Canada to Tecpan, Guatemala to begin building the Village.
The homes were built using earth bag construction. This inexpensive, environmentally friendly method of building uses long tubular bags that are usually used for coffee, rice or flour. The bags are filled with a combination of earth, sand and a bit of cement. They are then compacted and two rows of barbed wire are placed between each bag to stop lateral shifting. The bags are then plastered.
Local Guatemalan school children volunteered by making “eco-bricks” (empty plastic pop bottles filled tightly with soft plastic garbage). These were used for interiors walls of the buildings. Each family home requires 7000 eco-bricks. At this time, they have collected and used over 19,000 eco-bricks! This equates to 19,000 pounds of garbage that otherwise would fill the rivers, canyons and villages. Their light weight also provides safety from harm in what is an active earthquake zone.
A cistern designed by Heather & Greg catches the rainwater from the roofs of the homes and is used for washing and flushing.
Project Somos has a large organic garden for the families and also has planted a big area in corn for their use in tortillas. As well, over 200 fruit trees and 1000 conifers have been planted. The mothers and children are learning about organic gardening so they can continue to harvest their own food when their live on their own.
The local public school has no library and no books for their students to use and thus literacy suffers. A library is currently in the works at Project Somos, both for the children living there, as well as the local school children.
In just over three years they have turned this blank slate into a small Village and community. Currently 3 families — 3 mamas and 9 children — live in Project Somos’ two homes. Their stories are heartbreaking.
Ana is one of the mamas. She is a 26 year old widowed mother of 4. When they went to pick Ana and her children up they were living in an animal corral. A net covered the corral but temperatures at night drop as low as 8 degrees celsius. Ana couldn’t afford corn, so she purchased coffee and sugar (the cheapest option) to feed her children. The coffee staved off hunger and sugar kept their energy up. The family had the clothes on their backs when they arrived.
All the children were under-sized, full of parasites and deficient in essential vitamins and minerals when they arrived. The photos speak to their current health and happiness at the hands of Project Somos.
What’s next? Project Somos has built a playground, a community centre, and plan to build 5 more houses that will be home to 10 more families just like Ana, as well as continuing to build a library and a pre-school program for ‘littles’ younger than school age. They also hope to go ‘off the grid’ with solar powered energy throughout, to cut out the monthly electric bills and continue to grow in an ecologically friendly way.
Project Somos is also working with a local group in the closest town to develop a program to place mothers leaving the Village in low cost housing. This will provide a transition back into the community and give them an opportunity to acclimate to life after Somos, having their own home, and having recovered mentally and physically, and been taught a trade (organic farming, crafts, cooking) to provide for their family.
In 3 short years, Greg and Heather have built a Village that nurtures, houses and heals, and with it, a growing, eco-sustainable community in an area of extreme poverty in the Central Highlands of Guatemala.
This is where your money is going.. to Greg and Heather, to Project Somos, to these mamas and their children, and to an entire, growing village.
Your support is vital, and gives hope, care and compassion to these brave families with unthinkable realities.