Posted by: janetwright2guatemala | 05/24/2012

An Environmentally Friendly School Garden Takes Shape!

23 mayo 2012- miercoles


Site of future garden- What we started with…

5 mayo 2012– This morning I slid out of bed into some work clothes…including my trusty Peace Corps T-shirt to walk the 3 miles to the primaria (elementary school) in Chotzague, a paraje (village) of downtown San Bartolo. After many months as a dream and concept, the school garden is finally underway!! Just in time because the heavy rains of “winter” (their name for the rainy season) will be arriving anyday! Despite several recent trips on foot there, I still pause to catch my breath now and then on the steep uphills, also holding my breath each time a car or pickup rumbles by and spawns a dust cloud that rivals that of Charlie Brown’s friend “Pig-Pen”…definitely gotta love our dusty dirt roads!

Construction helpers and school band

Preparing the framing for walls

The principal, “Profe (short for professor) Byron” greeted me with the typical arm tap and cheek kiss. Kids of different ages started arriving and we began assigning tasks….I was so glad that they were willing to give up some precious hours of a Saturday morning.  For Guatemalan children, few watch TV cartoons on Saturdays, because many are off working in their parents’ fields or other work to help their families. So we got down to work…older boys sawed posts to the right length…the profe and another man mixed concrete. I taught several kids, especially girls, how to measure the posts with a tape measure. It IS confusing here because they use both metric and American system! …cutting posts to 6ft, marking the smaller ones at 52cm, etc.

Quality control- checking vertical

Concrete was poured into the post holes, and I then instructed a young girl how to check posts for vertical… “Hay que mirar si la burbuja está entre las dos lineas” (you need to check if the bubble is between the 2 lines).  She proudly went about checking all of the posts after we had poured the concrete, and I heard her exclaim “Cabal!” (perfect) as each post met the criteria…sometimes a few nudges and the post would win her approval.

By midday, we had installed the remaining 17 posts of the total 24 posts, and also poured a small concrete base for the ecoladrillos (12oz plastic water bottles filled with inorganic trash). I have been pushing this project as a pilot project using ecoladrillos…some other Peace Corps friends have already directed projects of much larger scale using these ecoladrillos, from elementary schools (of 2-3 classrooms) to a small cultural center…Me? well, I am starting with a modest project but I hope that it might spark interest for putting trash to good use and also reduce construction cost (less need for concrete blocks and cement).

Construction helpers…girls rock!


23 mayo 2012– An update…all 24 posts are now installed in concrete, along with wood beams for the tops of the walls! I am the trusty contractor, and along with my 5th-6thgrade helpers we have advanced quite nicely. Now we are nailing the chicken wire to the framing of the walls. Two days ago we began tying the ecoladrillos to the chicken wire and filled in one 2-meter section, but the perimeter of the garden wall is 27.8 meters, so we’ve got a ways to go! After the ecoladrillos are in place, we will enclose them with another side of chicken wire, and then two coatings of concrete are plastered on…the wall will appear to be concrete when done, and only we will know that it is filled with ecoladrillos!  Given that the planting season is NOW…we have revised our goal is to first get one-half of the garden completed so that kids can start planting…and then finish the other half. And yes, the rains HAVE indeed arrived!! Last night we had a rather spectacular thunder and lightning storm, losing (luz) power at 6pm last night and getting luz back at 3pm today!

Ecoladrillo wall!

Thankfully tonight the skies have calmed a bit, and the gift of electricity allows me to post this blog.

A brief history on funding this project– The mayor (after multiple begging visits by myself , PTA members, and principal!) offered to pay for some materials (concrete, rebar, and soil), and the PTA at the school is also providing materials (sand and gravel), but a design change and the unknown factor of this construction rose up and bit me…so I ended up financing quite a few of the materials needed (wood, nails, chicken wire). Up until now, I have not appealed for financial support from my followers on this blog, so please excuse my sales pitch now.

Creative use of garden posts

Let me say, that I am VERY impressed with this principal’s work with his students! He has mandatory computer and reading time for each grade (trying to prepare them for a better future), and also requires the food vendor on the school grounds to sell only healthy snacks.

So Profe Byron is on the right track and I really want to support him and his students!

Please consider supporting Chotzague Elementary School for their garden and library

  • $10-20Purchase of a book for the school library at the national Book Fair in July to supplement the existing 75 books
  •  $20 -Purchase of seeds and gardening tools for the garden (each of the seven grades will have a space of 1 meter x 4 meters)
  • $30Materials to improve the school playground (it is in a rather sad state!)
  • $100-250– A scholarship fund– I will urge the principal to make it competitive based on good grades and family need. Families here struggle with school costs for uniforms, etc., and often children quit at 6th grade due to lack of funds. For example, I am supporting a 7thgrader in another community with a scholarship of 1,925 quetzales (approx $250) so that she can attend middle school (see my post on January 10, 2012 )

    A rather sad playground

Your donation of any amount to Friends of Guatemala (FOG) will be deposited directly into my bank account here so I can pass along the funds. FOG is a 501C3 so your donation is tax-deductible. **Note**  on your check, please include my name on the subject line: Janet Wright



Please mail a check to the following address.

Friends of Guatemala

P.O. Box 33018

Washington D.C. 20033

Chotzague Schoolchildren

The schoolchildren of Chotzague thank you heartily for your support!!



  1. Hi Mom,

    Keep up the great work! I bet that’s fun for the kids to learn about building things and it’s a very creative idea!

    I gave a presentation about my time in Senegal today, and of course I had to brag about my Peace Corps mom and that I want to bring her with me the next time I visit Senegal! 🙂

    te amo

  2. I’m pretty sure the kid that is holding the drumstick is my cousin… nice pics…

  3. I’m from “El Centro”, (my house is close to the church: Principe De Paz,) saw all your pictures, my memory took me back home. I really hope you having fun with all the kids there and also “los Baños”. Greetings from Jersey.

  4. I’m glad that my photos and descriptions of San Bartolo bring you that much closer to your family here!

  5. Hi, Janet,
    I put a check for $50, made out to “Friends of Guatemala,” in today’s mail. Your name is in the ‘memo’ line. Hope you get the $$.

    All the best,


  6. Hi Mark,
    Muchas gracias for your generous donation!! The kids will appreciate it greatly!!! Am having fun during my visit to Seattle and will back to Guatemala on June 21st to finish up the garden!

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