Ask the question “how much money does it take to live a happy life?” and the majority of answers would look something like this: “enough to provide my loved ones with a comfortable home, wholesome food, a creative/peaceful play time and something to give back or donate to a charitable cause”. In essence we all know that money doesn´t equal happiness though it sure can help to ease a few worries in times of hardship. For some people, especially in the modernized western world, it takes a trip to an underprivileged, poverty stricken place to realise the elements that make for a happy life – gratitude for what we already have, for example. One of the quickest (though not always easiest) ways to do this is by volunteering in a foreign land that doesn´t have any of the mod cons one is used to. A good one that I´ve been working with is ‘A Long Way Home’ on their project in San Juan, Guatemala. The organization put its roots down here a few years ago with the intention to build a park and garden sanctuary for the local community. Once a piece of land that had virtually nothing but shrub on it, Parque Chimiya now has an organic vegetable garden, an organic compost heap, a sunflower garden, running water with pump, electricity, a volunteer house for 7 people with a small stove, a cold shower and compost toilet, a pine tree nursery nurturing tree for reforestation, a children´s playground, and a grassy football field for the local kids to play on. The not-for-profits current project is building a school for the local San Juan community which will eventually give 200 kids the opportunity to have a proper education. Many children here are lucky to finish 6th grade as they tend to leave early to help their families work the land in order to pay for food and other basic provisions. With this new school there will be more of an incentive for kids to stay longer and give children who may not have had the chance before to actually attend. This in itself is a wonderful contribution to the town. Another great aspect of this project is that the school is being built primarily from recycled and eco friendly materials. The school will consist of eight classrooms, four workshops, two storage rooms for trade classes, administration building, an eating hall, a recreational area and a garden. The pictures here show the workshop buildings which are three quarters of the way finished. The walls have been build using old tyres, ´cob´ mud, chicken wire and glass bottles. The walls will have a lime stone finish. The glass bottles in the roof act as colourful mini sun lights: a creative addition to what will be a mainly white exterior (though I´m sure the children will add plenty of bright light to the place. It’s wonderful to see the not-for-profits like Long Way Home having a long-term effect on these underprivileged parts of the world. Not only are they helping whole communities but they give volunteers who travel from the US, UK and the like, the comfort of knowing their work is making a real difference. If you’d like to learn more about Long Way Home and how you can contribute or donate visit