Tanya Memme, host of A&E’s “Sell This House – Extreme” does more than fix up houses on TV; she has a heart for helping to build houses and schools, plus bring water to impoverished families in rural Guatemala.
Tanya Memme, Penny Rambacher, and Frank Memme share photos of the first “eco-friendly bottle” school built in partnership with Wells of Hope, Miracles in Action, and the community of Laguna Seca.
Tanya is the daughter of Frank Memme, who is a board member of our partner charity, Wells of Hope (WOH), based in Ontario, Canada (birthplace of Penny Rambacher, Founder of Miracles in Action). This father-daughter team was instrumental in initiating the construction of eco-friendly schools – where the walls are built from plastic bottles filled with plastic or non-biodegradable trash. “Bottle Schools” lead to a better understanding about liter, and how working together, families can clean up their communities and participate in the construction of their school.
To spread the word about this new eco-friendly construction, and create an understanding of the very basic needs of Guatemalan families, Tanya arranged for her camera crew to come to Jalapa, Guatemala to film a documentary. Penny Rambacher joined them, and was interviewed at Laguna Seca School, WOH’s first bottle school funded by our generous donor Shirley Lotz.
Penny Rambacher being interviewed by documentary film crew in front of Laguna Seca “bottle” school.
In her interview, Penny shared, “Often I am asked why we don’t help poor people in the US. So I explain – Yes, there is poverty in the US, but there are also safety nets to help people who are poor – such as food stamps, United Way, Salvation Army, churches, neighbors, and numerous charities and social welfare programs. In Guatemala, the level of poverty is much greater and there are no safety nets. In his book The End of Poverty, author/economist Jeffrey Sachs calls this ‘extreme poverty’ – where every day is a struggle just to be alive. They do not have the basics to live – food, water, and shelter. Extreme poverty does not exist in the US, Canada or any developed country”.
Families carry water from the pond back to their homes to drink. The large jug holds 4 gallons, or 33 lbs. on the woman’s head, plus she carries the weight of her baby.
In another scene, Tanya, Frank and Penny are filmed at the village water source – a pond in front of the school. Women and children are seen filling jugs with contaminated water, to carry back to their homes for drinking, cooking and cleaning. The water is brown in color. This pond is shared by animals and also used for washing clothes. Penny demonstrates how to use a water purification filter, as the teachers and students look on. Miracles in Action buys filters and distributes them at schools and in villages to bring clean, potable water. The filters are life saving, especially for children, who are most likely to suffer from parasites and bacteria in dirty water. Frank samples the purified pond water. But first, he asks Penny several times, “Now you are sure this is OK to drink?” We are happy to report, that yes, Frank tested the purified water, with no ill effects.
A teacher shared the school’s photo album with historical photos of the project, including the shack that once was their school. Penny contributed photos from the inauguration and ribbon cutting on February 28th. She shared that she felt her mother’s presence during the inauguration, and now again as they looked at the photos. Tearfully, she told Tanya and Frank, “My mom is smiling from heaven, and is happy that we are working with Wells of Hope to improve the lives of children through education and clean water – such basics that we all take for granted.”
At left is old school made of tin, boards, and cardboard insulation. At right is the new, eco-friendly bottle school
Construction of Los Cebollines eco-friendly bottle school. Walls in back show the bottles being tied to chicken wire.
If you would like to support education and water projects through Wells of Hope and Miracles in Action… you can donate online.
Students, teachers, Tanya, Frank and Penny gather in front of the Laguna Seca “bottle” school.
Peek Hole in the school wall: See what is inside – plastic bottles filled with trash!