In February 2007 eleven Sienna Project Gringo Volunteers traveled to Agua Viva to assist the villagers in a self-help project to construct a two-classroom school building. The old school was a dirt floor wood structure with no windows, no electric outlets and a single 60-watt light bulb in each classroom. With shovels, pickaxes and hoes the volunteers worked digging holes for footing then leveling the site. They moved all the prefab panels inside the perimeter, and because there were no ladders in the village, our crew lifted the upper panels into place standing on “scaffolding” made from steel barrels topped with bricks, topped again with boards. The children attended school while we were building at one end of their play field, so when the students had recess some of us joined in soccer games, dodge ball and tugs of war. There was a great deal of classroom interaction with the village youngsters drawing, cartooning and map exploration.
It was heartwarming when we returned in 2008 for a visit during our second construction trip to realize the K-6 population of the village had almost doubled. In the intervening years we have seen the school grow with other buildings made possible by other philanthropic organizations and the school population has grown to over 300. By 2010 the village has grown from about 600 to 1500. Agua Viva has become an education center in the area. Families move there to take advantage of the expanded school facilities. We are proud that the Sienna Project started the expansion.
The village’s community service program, which is required of all young men, provided much of the labor. The school building was “inaugurated” in a ceremony with fireworks, speeches, traditional dancing and lots of festive food.