Hug It Forward volunteer Humza Shamsuddin, right, is shown with a child building a bottle school in March in Xeatzán Bajo, Guatemala. Kelly Clobes from the town of Newark will be headed to Guatemala on next month to put the finishing touches on the school as part of a ‘voluntour’ project.


Kelly Clobes will be using trash to create an educational treasure in Guatemala.

Through the Hug it Forward multicultural organization, she will help put the finishing touches on a “bottle school” in the community of Xeatzán Bajo, Guatemala, during a “voluntour” trip June 9 to give kids the prospect of a better future.

The school has been built in three trips by various volunteers starting in February. Clobes’ group will finish the school and be part of a ribbon-cutting ceremony to mark its completion.

Hug it Forward volunteers use eco-bricks, or plastic bottles stuffed with inorganic trash, to build schools. Clobes, who is president of the Hackett Elementary School PTO and heads up the food pantry at the school, said many kids in Guatemala have to leave school in their early teens to work and don’t always have the opportunity to pursue higher education.

“All kids deserve the ability to reach their full potential. If we can offer our hands and/or financial means to have a place to learn, it’s all worth it,” Clobes said.

Clobes is raising money for her $2,000 trip to spend a week in Guatemala. It includes airfare, accommodations, a tour guide, a security team and insurance.

Hug It Forward, which operates in Latin America and especially Guatemala, facilitates education and awareness around improved trash management methods by building the bottle schools. During construction, communities come together to build more environmentally responsible educational spaces.

“We have the children and adults within the community who come to assist during the process. They get to help build their own schools,” Clobes said.

Bottle classrooms are built using the post-and-beam method. Foundations, columns and beams are made from concrete reinforced with rebar, and the walls are built out of eco-bricks, which are better for the environment than cinder blocks.

“They act as the insulation and reduce costs,” Clobes said.

Once the bottles are stuffed with inorganic trash, gaps are filled with plastic bags and other trash and are then bound between layers of chicken wire. They are then covered with concrete and finally with paint.

Hug It Forward has built 131 schools in Guatemala. The school structures cost about $7,000 per classroom.

Clobes became aware of Hug it Forward through a former travel group she belonged to and the World Ventures Foundation that partnered with Hug it Forward to help build 110 schools.

She has worked with a network of hundreds of people worldwide to help raise $19,000 in funds to build the school in Xeatzán Bajo.

“I’m excited for this trip because I truly care about education and how what we do globally impacts us here at home,” she said.


Recommended for you