Blog > Education Community Development > Construction of the El Barranco Preschool and Community Center Progressing Thanks to Generosity of Donors

Monday, December 8, 2014
Construction of the El Barranco Preschool and Community Center Progressing Thanks to Generosity of Donors
Shelter Coordinator

The road to constructing a brand new Preschool Nutrition Center and Community Center in the rural village of El Barranco has been somewhat long and challenging. And while the process is still underway, the progress we've made since becoming involved in the small hillside community in May of 2011 is indisputable. It was then that the El Barranco Preschool Nutrition Center was first opened in a building rented from a local landlord. We began by facilitating sponsorships for over 70 of the most impoverished children within this small community, working to provide them with a quality education and nutritious food every single day.



While renting the space was a necessity, there were some unfortunate issues from the start. The landlord of the property refused to allow a guard to be stationed there overnight, a decision that stagnated the development of the building since expensive materials (like computers) could not have guaranteed security. This, along with further issues, made it increasingly clear that we needed to build a space of our own, one that was free from the influence of outside owners and that could act as the epicenter for the entire El Barranco community.

The plans for the new building are ambitious, the project itself being the first of its kind here at Mayan Families. Not only do we have a trained architect designing and overseeing the construction from the very beginning, but we also plan to implement programs beyond that of the Preschool Nutrition Center in order to meet the most critical needs of the El Barranco community at large.

For example:

  • The kitchen will also serve as an operational elderly care center for our Elderly Care Program.
  • The courtyard will function as a place for students to play as well as to perform traditional dances and showcase their talents.
  • The community gathering place will be a space for community leaders to meet and discuss solutions to community wide problems.

The process thus far has been complex, involving land purchase and the design and implementation of two phases of construction. Beth and Jay Mcfadyen tackled the first task of purchasing the land. Although they already sponsor a student and two of our elderly care cases, they stepped up to the challenge when they heard of this one of a kind project. Their generosity allowed Mayan Families to buy a 1,200 square meter plot of land and start planning for construction.

Construction is now underway thanks to the generous support of the Upper Arlington Rotary Club. The initial phase of construction will enable us to build a classroom, a kitchen, a cafeteria, and an outdoor courtyard where students can perform traditional dances in order to maintain connections to their indigenous culture. In addition, the Upper Arlington Rotary Club secured the funding for a second classroom to be constructed, a necessity given the large student body that the El Barranco Preschool Nutrition Center serves daily.


Despite thorough planning, we have since run into some unexpected obstacles in the construction process. It was discovered that the slope of the land would require not one, but rather two retaining walls to keep the structure in place. Although costly, these walls were absolutely necessary to ensure that the building would be safe and durable through unpredictable earthquakes and landslides, two frequent occurrences in this part of Guatemala. Refusing to cut corners and jeopardize the safety of the community members, construction moved forward and the two walls were completed.

With the first phase in its final stages, we are currently focusing on securing the funding to move forward with even more. This additional phase would include the construction of a Guard’s office, which will finally allow for a library and computer lab whose overnight security can be guaranteed. During phase 2 an outdoor gathering area and a community garden will also be constructed. The community garden will be an extension of our pilot Community Garden Project, promoting sustainable agricultural methods for the adults of the El Barranco community. Pending the completion of this phase, the building will also boast solar panels to ensure cost effective access to electricity, as well as a rain water harvesting and filtration system to provide fresh drinking water for the students and community members. These characteristics are indicative of the sustainability of the proposed project, helping to ensure that the completed building benefits the El Barranco community for years to come.  

 If you would like to donate or fundraise to help us complete phase 2 of the El Barranco project, please email

With the completion of both phases, Mayan Families is looking forward to opening the new El Barranco Preschool Nutrition and Community Center in January of 2015! 

Photo Credit: Marcy Schrum 2014 All Rights Reserved

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