beyond borders & beyond architecture


A good friend and colleague recently sent a group email describing his upcoming volunteer work trip to Guatemala to help repair schools and work on stormwater projects.  Steve Wayland is a Civil engineer and I’ve had the pleasure of working with him on several sustainability projects, including the first pilot LEED Neighborhood project on a historic restoration of the old Pabst brewing complex in Milwaukee.

Steve’s Guatemala project is another great example of how we can give back using our skills and sharing our knowledge.  The irony is that we often find that we receive in return much more than we give.   Steve’s two college aged sons will also be joining him on this trip. I asked Steve if I could share his ‘beyond borders’ story about a project that is ‘beyond architecture’, he generously agreed. Below are two excerpts, one from Steve’s contact in Guatemala and the other his letter describing the trip.  Enjoy.

Here are a few notes from Steve’s Guatemala connection, Gary A. Teale, Executive Director, Avivara:

205_Don_Pancho_School_Entrance_1-3x1_p1200_900dpi_medwebviewCivil engineering projects: According to your group’s itinerary, you folks will be going to Coyolate on Monday, which as I understand it is related to a water project. Also, your group will be working for several days in the village of El Yalu. This is a very poor village with many issues around water supply, sewage, etc., so you will have an opportunity to see their situation first hand and get a better sense of the challenges facing the rural poor.

215_Study_Girl_Small_Web_viewFinal Thoughts: When we first came to Guatemala to work in the Guatemala City garbage dump, we thought that as U.S. university-trained educators, we had it all figured out and would have much to offer to the Guatemalans to help them provide a better education and life for the students here.

However, it did not take us long to come to the realization that the most important thing for us to do was to listen and learn. Only by doing that could we begin to understand the cultural norms and long-term desires of the people we were working with, and then, and only then, develop sustainable strategies for helping that were fully owned and implemented by the Guatemalan people themselves. On our website at we have a couple of articles that touch on this and that you might find interesting reading. (Look for the section in the first article entitled “The road to hell is paved with good intentions” and the second article, “What do the poor deserve?”)

Here is Steve’s  letter describing the trip and asking for equipment donations:

Hi All,    Michael, David and I have the great opportunity to travel with a group from our church- Covenant Presbyterian in Madison, WI to Guatemala in January, 2013; and work on several service and construction projects related to schools in rural areas around Antigua and Guatemala City.

Michael, David and I will also be organizing casual sports camp, giving tips on playing the sports, and/or just helping to facilitate pick-up games of soccer (what they call football), frisbee throwing/ultimate frisbee, and/or baseball/softball…with the Guatemalan children, youth and teens. .

Here’s where you all come in. 🙂   The boys and I would like to collect “gently used” sporting equipment (SOCCER BALLS, SOCCER SHOES, GOALIE GLOVES, SOCCER SOCKS, SHIN GUARDS…AND ANY FRISBEES , STANDARD, ULTIMATE, AND/OR FRISBEE GOLF TYPE) from our friends and families. We are planning to bring a couple large suitcases, with these things in them, with us to Guatemala, to give to poor families and children in the country.

Any of these items that you could send to me, or that I could come pick up, would be so greatly appreciated.

If you would prefer to send a check or give cash that I could use to purchase these items at a store like Play it Again Sports, that would also be most appreciated.

I will also be helping out with several projects and speaking with town leaders to discuss issues and solve problems related to: stormwater management/flood control, water & sewer utilities, and “sustainable” design and construction. I will have the opportunity to take a look at infrastructure and construction related issues in some of the poorer areas that we will be vesting in Guatemala. I hope to learn as much as I can from the Guatemalans; with respect to these things, while I am in the country.

Please contact me with what you’d like to donate by next Friday, January 4th, 2013.  You can email or call me anytime if you have questions or want more information on this.  Happy New Year to all of you and thanks for whatever you can contribute.

Take care,  Steve

Steve Whayland, PE, LEED AP





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