Haskell alum Delinda Pushetonequa travels to South American to help indigenous youth.
by Charlie Perry @CharlieHPerry
Lawrence KS- San Martine Guatemala is home to an 87% indigenous population, most of which are Mayan descendants. The city has no recycling system and the majority of its inhabits live in poverty. Haskell alumnus Delinda Pushetonequa embarked on a journey to San Martine recently where she helped build a school out of recyclables for local youth. “Bottle Schools” as they are known, utilize disposable plastic bottles and bags to make an “Eco brick” that is used in the construction of the foundation and walls of the structure.
Pushetonequa wanted to make a difference in our global community, “I have always wanted to do a trip to help impact another world community. A few years ago my cousin introduced me to this travel school that I’m now a part of. One of their trips centered on “bottle schools.” When I saw that I said to myself, that is exactly what I have been looking for, I want to go there. I really didn’t know much about it but I finally raised enough money to take the trip. My twin sister came with me and she paid for my 8 year old nephew to go as well.”
That travel organization worked with the “Hug It Forward” nonprofit organization, whose main focus is the construction of “bottle schools” in underprivileged nations. Since 2009 “Hug It Forward” has built 57 bottles schools in Guatemala and El Salvador. “We were really excited about it. It just turned out to be this really incredible experience. We thought we were going down there to help them but they helped us more. They filled our hearts with so much love and gratitude. They really changed the way that we see the world. Knowing less is more, it really changed how we lived after the trip,” said Pushetonequa.
“The indigenous peoples of Guatemala share many of the same beliefs as Native Americans living in the United States. “They have a very spiritual belief. They believe in the earth and our connection to it. The communities that live in the villages are just trying to live. The Mayans that carry on their traditions have a sense of interconnection; they believe they came from the stars. I found that very interesting because there are some tribes in the United States that tell those stories about coming from the star people. The Mayan language to me sounds a lot like Lakota or Dakota, the way the words sound. I also have friends that are Lakota that would tell me stories about the star people,” said Pushetonequa.
At the conclusion of Pushetonequa’s “Bottle Schools” presentation Manny King felt moved by her journey to San Martine, “I just think it was kind of overwhelming to see how little they have and what they were able to do with their trash. For me what was really touching were the little ones and how they remind us of our own indigenous children. To see the poor environment and the pride they have taken in the things they have built really will stay with me.”
If you want to get involved in the “Hug it forward” bottle school movement, visit their website at hugitforward.org. Pushetonequa had one final piece of advice for those looking to make a difference, “I think that we all can learn from each other. We have all progressed so far from where our ancestors came from. The Guatemala indigenous people are where our ancestors were 80 years ago. We can learn from them and they can learn from us. We can build together these relationships and create more peace in the world.”