Learning Care Group News: March 18, 2024

A Mighty Mission: Building a School in Guatemala

Among all our experiences throughout the week, my favorite part of the trip was interacting with the children.”

Kelsey Taft of Learning Care Group, Inc. (LCG) reflects on an unforgettable journey to rural Guatemala as part of the 2024 Lifetouch Memory Mission® trip. Taft, a District Manager in Oklahoma South, joined 39 other educators and employees from companies across North America, specially selected by Lifetouch to help build a sustainable school out of plastic bottles and inorganic trash.

“When I got the news, I was honestly shocked and just so grateful for the opportunity,” Taft reflects. “I had no idea that Lifetouch coordinated these trips. I was intrigued! I have always wanted to be part of a mission trip, and once I learned that this trip involved building a school for children to become educated, that was just icing on the cake, because my passion is just that.”

You may recognize Lifetouch as the LCG partner responsible for school day photos and professional photos of staff members. Lifetouch has organized a total of 19 mission trips since 2000 to nine different destinations around the world, each focused on offering a week of intensive volunteer services.


Taft joined the latest mission group at the end of January to support the community of Xepatan in the state of Chimaltenango. They were eager to roll up their sleeves and get to work! “It is quite expensive to build a three-room school in a developing country,” she explains. To help make the daunting task more feasible, Lifetouch also partnered with the multicultural Hug It Forward organization focused on improving trash management using creative solutions.

“They were able to work with the mayor of the community to develop a plan to build these sustainable schools for less money. Before we arrived, the community worked together to collect bottles of all sizes and stuff them full of trash.”

For reference, it takes about 100 chip bags to fill a single bottle at max capacity. “Bottle classrooms are built using the established method of post-and-beam construction. The foundations, columns, and beams are made from concrete reinforced with iron rebar. Instead of cinder blocks, the plastic eco-bricks are used to fill the wall. The schools are expected to last 100 years!”


Building the school was just one aspect of Taft’s experience. During the week, she also spent time connecting with the volunteers and community members. “I met a little girl named Maria that took to me. We sat down and started trying to balance bottles on top of each other. It was so cool to watch her little mind work, trying different ways to get it to balance on the cap,” Taft shares. “Before you knew it, other children were joining in. One little boy even took it further trying to see how many he could get to stay up at a time.” 

To create lasting memories, volunteers also took personal portraits of the community’s K-6 school children. The photos were delivered on the last day of the mission trip. They were the first-ever professional portraits taken within the community!


The volunteers got a chance to immerse themselves in the local history and culture too. Taft explains, “Our group visited the Mayan Ruins and learned about the fire ceremony. Getting to experience that was life-changing and very moving. We also learned about the Civil War and migration from their perspective, which was extremely eye-opening.”

Taft says the sense of community was evident from the first moment her crew arrived. “The children ran up to us with no hesitation, as if they had always known us. They enjoyed playing with simple things and wanted to help be a part of building their school. It was clear that everyone looked out for one another within the community.”

The volunteers immediately felt like part of their families. “Children would come from all over to the school grounds without having an adult with them because they knew they were safe. Everyone was just so happy and very loving,” Taft smiles


This experience is just the beginning of Taft’s desire to give back   and support education. “It’s hard to put into words how much this   trip meant to me. My personal goal is to return next year with my   husband and close friends. I would love to go back and see our   finished school and visit our new friends!

 Want to learn more?
 Lifetouch Memory Mission®
 Hug It Forward