Long Way Home’s Executive Director, Matthew Paneitz, is a former US Peace Corps Volunteer from Texas. Matthew Paneitz was stationed in San Juan Comalapa during his Peace Corps service where he worked with youth groups through a local community development organization called Chuwi Tinamit. This organization owned land and had plans to build a park, but they lacked the funds and asked Mateo for help.
Paneitz moved to Oregon and founded Long Way Home (LWH), achieving 501(c)(3) status in late 2004. He began raising funds to build Chuwi’s park, Parque Chimiyá, and, at the beginning of 2005 he returned to Comalapa to start construction.
Once Parque Chimiyá became established as a community gathering place, area residents began coming to LWH for help with other endeavors. LWH projects now include education and alternative construction.
In 2009, LWH began its most ambitious undertaking to date: the construction of a primary and vocational school using alternative methods and materials including rammed-earth and recycled tires. This school will expand the local capacity by up to 250 students, increasing educational opportunities in Comalapa. Currently most residents of Comalapa wishing to pursue education beyond middle school must travel to a city 25 km away. In January 2012, we welcomed our first students; that has led us to a successful 130 students currently enrolled at LWH from kindergarten to grade 10. Our continued construction has allowed us to increase the school’s capacity and expand the LWH family to high school students. This 2018 school year we are very proud to add 10th grade, the first year of high school, and we will be adding subsequent grade levels in the years to follow.