Sienna Project…Building Schools in Guatemala

Closing ceremonies with mostly built school in background.In early March, 2011, I  spent a week helping to build a school in the highlands of Guatemala west of the capital  for the indigenous people. My stepfather-with a lot of help from my Mother (CFO) and my ex-pat step brother, created a charity to build schools http://siennaproject.org/ to help the indigenous people of the area…without going too far into the politics, the US government is part of a long list that oppressed these folks so it’s nice that we Americans can do some good down there.

For 4 of the days we helped to build a 3 room concrete school in a village in the highlands west of Guatemala City. (full disclosure…I built and maintain the website).

By helping to build the school…working with the village men to create something they needed it felt like we really connected with these people…despite my limited Spanish (and far more limited Quiche’, their native Mayan tongue). Really hard for me to describe, but we truly felt by the end of the week all of us felt  we were connecting with these people and especially with the children.    I know helping people build a school hardly seems like a vacation, but it was quite special. In reality, most of the work we did the villagers could have done, but by working with them we were able to connect in a way that a monetary donation never would. Honestly, I was surprised.

On the first day we played tourist in the highland Market town of Chichicastenango and on the we were in the colonial capital of Antigua (old) Guatemala which was destroyed by an earthquake in the 1770s, languished for a couple of centuries and is now a tourist town with an interesting twist—many of the churches wrecked by the earthquake left largely as they fell.

Of course lots of the fun was a good group of people that we went down with, good food and drink  and the great job my folks did as tour organizers.

Building Schools In Guatemala

Chichicastenengo. Built on a hill, this arch is an underpass. Photos by TOM HART
Chichicastenengo. Built on a hill, this arch is an underpass. Photos by TOM HART
Market, chichicastenengo. Photos by TOM HART
Market, chichicastenengo. Photos by TOM HART
Eddie and Tom, Chichicastenengo cemetary.
Eddie and Tom, Chichicastenengo cemetary.
Cemetery, Chichicastenengo from hotel Pop Wuj roof. One of the members of our group swore he had read that Chichicastenengo was on the of the best places to die due to this beautiful cometary. Photos by TOM HART
Cemetery, Chichicastenengo from hotel Pop Wuj roof. One of the members of our group swore he had read that Chichicastenengo was on the of the best places to die due to this beautiful cometary. Photos by TOM HART
Juxtaposition on the pan american highway on the way to Palanquix. Photos by TOM HART
Juxtaposition on the pan american highway on the way to Palanquix. Photos by TOM HART
Flipped truck on the road up to Chichi. The road in and out of Chichi goes up and down thru a canyon with 30' turn radius at a 30 percent slope...We thank Victor for his safe driving. Photos by TOM HART
Flipped truck on the road up to Chichi. The road in and out of Chichi goes up and down thru a canyon with 30' turn radius at a 30 percent slope...We thank Victor for his safe driving. Photos by TOM HART
Welcome from the children. Sienna Project 2011 Guatemala trip to help build school in Palanquix, Solala, Guatemala. Photos by TOM HART
Welcome from the children. Sienna Project 2011 Guatemala trip to help build school in Palanquix, Solala, Guatemala. Photos by TOM HART
Opening ceremony. Sienna Project 2011 Guatemala trip to help build school in Palanquix, Solala, Guatemala. Photos by TOM HART
Opening ceremony. Sienna Project 2011 Guatemala trip to help build school in Palanquix, Solala, Guatemala. Photos by TOM HART
Children at opening ceremony, Sienna Project 2011 Guatemala trip to help build school in Palanquix, Solala, Guatemala. Photos by TOM HART
Children at opening ceremony, Sienna Project 2011 Guatemala trip to help build school in Palanquix, Solala, Guatemala. Photos by TOM HART
Children at opening ceremony, Sienna Project 2011 Guatemala trip to help build school in Palanquix, Solala, Guatemala. . Photos by TOM HART
Children at opening ceremony, Sienna Project 2011 Guatemala trip to help build school in Palanquix, Solala, Guatemala. . Photos by TOM HART
6 and 7 year old children at opening ceremony Sienna Project 2011 Guatemala trip to help build school in Palanquix, Solala, Guatemala. Photos by TOM HART
6 and 7 year old children at opening ceremony Sienna Project 2011 Guatemala trip to help build school in Palanquix, Solala, Guatemala. Photos by TOM HART
Opening ceremony, Sienna Project 2011 Guatemala trip to help build school in Palanquix, Solala, Guatemala. Photos by TOM HART
Opening ceremony, Sienna Project 2011 Guatemala trip to help build school in Palanquix, Solala, Guatemala. Photos by TOM HART
Older children at opening ceremony, Sienna Project 2011 Guatemala trip to help build school in Palanquix, Solala, Guatemala. Photos by TOM HART
Older children at opening ceremony, Sienna Project 2011 Guatemala trip to help build school in Palanquix, Solala, Guatemala. Photos by TOM HART
6 and 7 year old children dancing at opening ceremony Sienna Project 2011 Guatemala trip to help build school in Palanquix, Solala, Guatemala. Photos by TOM HART
6 and 7 year old children dancing at opening ceremony Sienna Project 2011 Guatemala trip to help build school in Palanquix, Solala, Guatemala. Photos by TOM HART
3 Gringos carrying concrete slabs. Gringo loco...Ira, Dave, Jason.Photos by TOM HART
3 Gringos carrying concrete slabs. Gringo loco...Ira, Dave, Jason.Photos by TOM HART
Dave had just explained to the boys what the T-shirt said. (la camiseta dice "Estoy con estúpido"). Dr. Fletcher, PhD, thinks this is very funny. Photos by TOM HART
Dave had just explained to the boys what the T-shirt said. (la camiseta dice "Estoy con estúpido"). Dr. Fletcher, PhD, thinks this is very funny. Photos by TOM HART
Jason in the break room. Sienna Project 2011 Guatemala trip to help build school in Palanquix, Solala, Guatemala. Photos by TOM HART
Jason in the break room. Sienna Project 2011 Guatemala trip to help build school in Palanquix, Solala, Guatemala. Photos by TOM HART
Jason helping steady a column. Jason is a big guy in the states, but here....One of the villagers called 5'3" Ira 'muy alto' (very tall). Photos by TOM HART
Jason helping steady a column. Jason is a big guy in the states, but here....One of the villagers called 5'3" Ira 'muy alto' (very tall). Photos by TOM HART
Edaurdo holding court..S Photos by TOM HART
Edaurdo holding court..S Photos by TOM HART
Impromptu harmonica concert by Dave.Photos by TOM HART
Impromptu harmonica concert by Dave.Photos by TOM HART
These kids will climb on anything! Photos by TOM HART
These kids will climb on anything! Photos by TOM HART
Marielle, Adella et. al.on ladders at jobsite.Photos by TOM HART
Marielle, Adella et. al.on ladders at jobsite.Photos by TOM HART
Caroline (Tom's mother) painting beams. Photos by TOM HART
Caroline (Tom's mother) painting beams. Photos by TOM HART
Loyce and Caroline painting beams. Sienna Project 2011 Guatemala trip to help build school in Palanquix, Solala, Guatemala. Photos by TOM HART
Loyce and Caroline painting beams. Sienna Project 2011 Guatemala trip to help build school in Palanquix, Solala, Guatemala. Photos by TOM HART
Derek (Tom's step brother) welding. Photos by TOM HART
Derek (Tom's step brother) welding. Photos by TOM HART
View of Volcan Aqua from the worksite, S Photos by TOM HART
View of Volcan Aqua from the worksite, S Photos by TOM HART
Path down the valley above the village. Villagers walked quite a ways to farm.Photos by TOM HART
Path down the valley above the village. Villagers walked quite a ways to farm.Photos by TOM HART
School from hillside above and to the left (south) of worksite.Photos by TOM HART
School from hillside above and to the left (south) of worksite.Photos by TOM HART
View of school (center) Sienna Project 2011 Guatemala trip to help build school in Palanquix, Solala, Guatemala. Photos by TOM HART
View of school (center) Sienna Project 2011 Guatemala trip to help build school in Palanquix, Solala, Guatemala. Photos by TOM HART
Women on hillside near neighboring town, Sienna Project 2011 Guatemala trip to help build school in Palanquix, Solala, Guatemala. Photos by TOM HART
Women on hillside near neighboring town, Sienna Project 2011 Guatemala trip to help build school in Palanquix, Solala, Guatemala. Photos by TOM HART
Women in field in next town. Palanquix, Solala, Guatemala. Photos by TOM HART
Women in field in next town. Palanquix, Solala, Guatemala. Photos by TOM HART
Children in the next village. Jason and I had gone on a walk and were lost in the maze of the village trying to find our way out to the road, feeling somewhere between intrusive and nervous,when all these kids appeared in a window. Photos by TOM HART
Children in the next village. Jason and I had gone on a walk and were lost in the maze of the village trying to find our way out to the road, feeling somewhere between intrusive and nervous,when all these kids appeared in a window. Photos by TOM HART
Adella and Marielle.Guatemala trip to help build school in Palanquix, Solala, Guatemala. Photos by TOM HART
Adella and Marielle.Guatemala trip to help build school in Palanquix, Solala, Guatemala. Photos by TOM HART
Juan getting eggs out of the culvert...he was totally in the culver by a foot or 2 and pulled out more then a dozen eggs. Photos by TOM HART
Juan getting eggs out of the culvert...he was totally in the culver by a foot or 2 and pulled out more then a dozen eggs. Photos by TOM HART
Ira and Laura using teamwork for the final details. Photos by TOM HART
Ira and Laura using teamwork for the final details. Photos by TOM HART
Jason of Guatamala relaxing, Susan, Marty (blue arm in back) and Victor, our driver, back right, working. Sienna Project 2011 Guatemala trip to help build school in Palanquix, Solala, Guatemala. Photos by TOM HART
Jason of Guatamala relaxing, Susan, Marty (blue arm in back) and Victor, our driver, back right, working. Sienna Project 2011 Guatemala trip to help build school in Palanquix, Solala, Guatemala. Photos by TOM HART
Erica, Derek and Erica's son. Erica is the daughter of a friend of Derek's who helped Laura, Derek's wife, with the cooking on the job site. Photos by TOM HART
Erica, Derek and Erica's son. Erica is the daughter of a friend of Derek's who helped Laura, Derek's wife, with the cooking on the job site. Photos by TOM HART
Jason (checked hat at top center) showing the pictures he took to dozens of children. Photos by TOM HART
Jason (checked hat at top center) showing the pictures he took to dozens of children. Photos by TOM HART
Second bottle launching during closing ceremonies. First one suprised everyone. I nearly dropped my camera and Marty and Dave nearly fell of the ladder where they were adding the logo, both saved by Dave grabbing Marty to save himself he admits as to save Marty.Photos by TOM HART
Second bottle launching during closing ceremonies. First one suprised everyone. I nearly dropped my camera and Marty and Dave nearly fell of the ladder where they were adding the logo, both saved by Dave grabbing Marty to save himself he admits as to save Marty.Photos by TOM HART
Closing ceremonies. Sienna Project 2011 Guatemala trip to help build school in Palanquix, Solala, Guatemala. Photos by TOM HART
Closing ceremonies. Sienna Project 2011 Guatemala trip to help build school in Palanquix, Solala, Guatemala. Photos by TOM HART
Closing ceremonies. Sienna Project 2011 Guatemala trip to help build school in Palanquix, Solala, Guatemala. Photos by TOM HART
Closing ceremonies. Sienna Project 2011 Guatemala trip to help build school in Palanquix, Solala, Guatemala. Photos by TOM HART
Manual, town elder, and Marty at the closing ceremonies. Photos by TOM HART
Manual, town elder, and Marty at the closing ceremonies. Photos by TOM HART
Marielle saying goodbye. Photo taken from inside the van as we waited for Dave by TOM HART
Marielle saying goodbye. Photo taken from inside the van as we waited for Dave by TOM HART
Adella saying goodbye. Photo taken from inside the van as we waited for Dave by TOM HART
Adella saying goodbye. Photo taken from inside the van as we waited for Dave by TOM HART

About Tom Hart

North Jersey and New York City photographer, web designer and developer that helps organizations get noticed.. Learn more Tom Hart .
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