Community

Eco-sustainable village to be built for orphans in Guatemala

Children left orphaned by the devastation of a 35-year civil war in Guatemala have cause for hope. These children will be provided homes, caretakers and a bright future in an eco-sustainable village being created for them by Project Somos. - Photo courtesy of Heather Knox
Children left orphaned by the devastation of a 35-year civil war in Guatemala have cause for hope. These children will be provided homes, caretakers and a bright future in an eco-sustainable village being created for them by Project Somos.
— image credit: Photo courtesy of Heather Knox

To love one’s neighbor is both their spiritual and their political motto.

But that’s where their religious and political ties end. For Greg Kemp and Heather Knox, the main concern is children who would have no mothers and no future. But thanks to Project Somos, they now have both.

Kemp and Knox are Vancouver, B.C. natives who created Project Somos, an organization that aims to create an eco-sustainable village for orphans in Guatemala. Project Somos will host its first Whidbey Island information event at 7 p.m. Saturday, June 13. A five-course Mayan meal will be served at the home of Judyth Reichenberg Ullman and Robert Ullman at

36 Saratoga Creek Lane in Langley.

The organizers of the project are level-headed about their approach.

“We knew we could spin a globe and put our fingers anywhere in the world, and that there would be a need,” said Knox, the group’s executive director.

“Being privileged North Americans, we have always felt a strong desire and need to give back. We speak Spanish and felt a strong connection to the Guatemalans.”

The purpose of the village is not only to create seven homes for seven Guatemalan foster mothers who will each raise seven orphaned children, but also to empower these families. The women are trained to become “professional moms” and will be paid for their services of raising the children to become independent and responsible adults.

“Guatemala is still suffering from a 35-year civil war, and raising the next generation of compassionate leaders is something that the country could use in a big way,” Knox said.

The eco-sustainable village will use only alternative power and create a system of organic agriculture that will provide food for its inhabitants.

It will also be equipped with rain-water capture, a gray-water recycling system and solar energy.

Additionally, a collaborative effort between the foster village and the local Guatemalan community will be a priority in order to maintain the cultural heritage of the children and to form lifelong familial ties. The children will attend the local community school, and their education will be augmented with music, art and leadership.

There will be buildings for village activities, guest rooms, art and music workshops, a library, administration space and a large playground and soccer field.

“Our aim is to raise children as compassionate and creatively intelligent human beings that can enter into this fractured society as leaders and make a difference for everyone,” Kemp said.

“It is not a quick fix. It will take time, but for us, it is worth the effort to give these abandoned kids an opportunity to raise their country out of the cycle of violence and decadence. We have no religious ties except to love one’s neighbor, and we have no politics except to love one’s neighbor,” he said.

“This, coupled with a developed intelligence, can make the difference in Guatemala or anywhere in the world.

“That and a lot of hard work, perseverance and patience,” Kemp added.

The vision for Project Somos was developed a number of years ago, Knox said.

The focus since then has sharpened, but the project continues to hold regular information events to gather momentum and generate new ideas.

A team of committed supporters continues to grow.

Along with Knox and Kemp there are six board members,

11 advisors, a Guatemalan liaison, three dozen volunteers including a Vancouver youth group, and support from several businesses.

“What makes us unique at this time is that we are in the early phases of starting a new project,” Knox said.

“Individuals get excited to be involved in something from the ground up. We attract many people of all ages and backgrounds and have supporters all around the world. “

The evening on Whidbey will be an opportunity for interested folks to find out about they can help with the goals of Project Somos, as well as a chance to share a meal with neighbors.

The event will be topped off with some South America hot chocolate and a slide presentation during which handmade Guatemalan textiles will be offered for sale.

Tickets cost $25 and reservations are required. Call 221-7715 for a reservation.

For more info,Click here, e-mail info@projectsomos.org or call 612-284-4533.

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