In July 2013, Virgin Megastore got involved with Jonathon Defante, United Nations Citizens Ambassador and Music Buyer, in his quest to build a bottle school in Guatemala. Defante completed collection of the necessary funds ($7000 to be precise) early December 2013 and traveled to Guatemala from Dubai on December 26th. After a 28-hour-journey, Defante arrived to Guatemala where he met with his fellow citizens’ ambassador Mario Valdez who helped him assimilate to the Guatemalan culture. Valdez is involved with Techo, a Latin American organization that focuses its efforts on overcoming poverty and improving living conditions in slums around the city. Defante said that the city reminded him of The Hunger Games, being split into several districts (Zone 18 being the “No-Go-Zone”). He also added that language was quite a problem as Spanish is the official language and very few people speak English. Defante then traveled to Quetzaltenango, also known as Xela (Shela), where he would learn the behind the scenes of organizing and building a Bottle School.
The first step towards building a Bottle School is a survey and public discussion involving the community members whereby communal needs are discussed. Since the project is a community based project, participation of all members is extremely essential. The next step is the collection of bottles and trash. A 2 classroom school requires atleast 7,500 bottles. Once everything has been collected, the funds acquired for the project are put to use for laying the foundation of the school and paying for labor hired locally. The entire process is unfortunately quite slow due to several reasons including skepticism and cynicism of the project by the locals. The schools can actually withstand 70km per hour windows and up to 6.9 magnitude earthquakes. The completion of a school can take anytime between 6-9 months and there are currently 34 completed bottle schools in Guatemala. Once the project is up and running, the organization Hug it Forward, hands over the entire project to the community who is then responsible for the upkeep and maintenance for the school on their own.
“Thank you again for making these projects possible. I’ve been thrilled to be a part of this journey and I’m currently working on bringing the same project to the Philippine,” said Defante. For more information on volunteering and how to get involved with this organization please visit Hug it Forward.