Almost one year ago Nuevo Mundo Foundation, the non-profit arm of Project Nuevo Mundo, was donated 6 acres of lush cloud forest in the small and remote village of Lanquin, Guatemala. Lanquin is located near the natural marvel Semuc Champey in the Alta Verapaz region northeast of Guatemala City. After almost a year of preparations, we organized an excursion to our land in January of 2015. A total of fourteen eco-solutionaries eager to put their skills into action came together in January for two weeks of visioning, research, and collaborative design.
Our objective was to begin the design of a Regenerative Living and Learning Center that would host courses and workshops, engage in social outreach to the local community, and create a replicable model of land stewardship and restoration. We also planned to explore the land and the local community: to get to know the land’s dynamic curves, flow, beauty, bruises and degradation.
The group’s goal was to use our collective pool of knowledge and areas of expertise to develop a comprehensive analysis of the geography, ecology, culture and economic challenges in the area and the community surrounding the land. Ultimately, we want this project to not only restore and protect the natural environment , but also help create a regenerative economy by providing jobs and developing educational programs for both travelers and locals on permaculture, agroforestry and natural building.
We broke the group up into teams to focus attention on different areas of development. The team was comprised of highly skilled, dynamic and spiritually driven individuals dedicated to permaculture design and biological mapping. The most valuable and fully invested member of the team is Hector Pop’ chalom, a well-known community leader and superintendent of the local school. He has stewarded the land for the last ten years.
Noland Haperman (Wildlife Biology/Forest Ecology)
Nick Tittle (Business/Permaculture Designer/Educator)
Kevin Marcello (Horticulture/Soil Science)
Ivan Sawyer Garcia (Group Facilitator, Social Entrepreneur)
Pedro Rodríguez (Nutritional Alchemist/Social Entrepreneur)
Shayna Gladstone (Group Facilitation/Dream Activation)
Natural Building Team:
Gabriel Rojas Sandoval (Architecture/Natural Building)
Javier Martinez (Engineer/Natural Building)
Choclo Pieot’tsotso (Natural Building)
Economic and Business Team
David Casey (Entrepreneurship/Network Architecture)
Jennifer Schmidt (Non-Profit Development/Legal/Business Development)
Charlotte Fradet (Business Development)
Throughout this retreat we used a process we love called Dragon Dreaming. Dragon Dreaming is a collaborative process for a group to create a common mission, vision, core-values, goals, objectives and timeline for all types of projects or businesses. The name Dragon Dreaming refers to “hidden dragons” or the inner challenges that arise as we create collective dreams.
As part of the Dragon Dreaming, Shayna led a visioning process to list of core-values for the project:
Personal Development: Holistic approach to growth balancing spirit, mind, and body.
Regenerative Stewardship: We care for the land in a regenerative manner that takes into account the next seven generations that will inhabit it.
Integrity: We strive maintain integrity, with self, with each other, and through the land through offering and receiving mutual love and respect.
Celebration: We acknowledge the importance of celebrating our victories through ceremony and play.
Education: We are committed to providing high quality education, to horizontal learning, and integrating diverse sources of knowledge.
Service: Our guiding principle is seva, sacred service to one’s community, both on the land and to the wider community that we are here to support.
Community: We strive to co-create an environment of cultural and intergenerational exchange, celebrating unity and diversity.
Leadership: We believe that empowering youth through providing support systems will produce the next generation of leaders to amplify our positive impact.
Innovation: We value adaptiveness, responsiveness, and experimentation to identify creative solutions to our challenges.
Through the mission and vision creation process of Dragon Dreaming facilitated by Erika Logie and Jennifer Schmidt we came up with a finalized mission and vision statement for this project:
Mission To create a replicable model of a regenerative living and learning center focused on permaculture and appropriate technology, community outreach, youth empowerment, and intercultural exchange.
Vision [Impact Center Lanquin] is a regenerative living and learning center that transforms individuals and communities by providing education, mentorship, and replicable models for permaculture, appropriate technology, and youth leadership. We strive to build intercultural bridges, and social and physical infrastructure for positive local impact.
The Ecological Analysis revealed many fascinating attributes of our land with respect to the climate, geography, plant species, wildlife, water, soil, and slope. Water flows abundantly throughout the property. There is significant rainfall throughout the year, and in this tropical cloud-forest, practically anything can be cultivated. We found that there is a formidable slope in parts of the property, which calls for terracing and keyline earthworks. There is abundant clay in the soil, which will serve as a building resource in the future. It will also present challenges for growing conditions. The diversity of plant species growing on site includes cacao (!), copal (a tree whose resin is used as incense), ceiba, madre de cacao, plantain, ginger and various forms of palm, among many others. Cardamom is grown in the region as a cash crop due to the favorable climate. Monkeys have also been spotted on-site.
One of our most important objectives for the retreat was to connect our team with the local community. To accomplish this, we held a cob and brick rocket-stove workshop and bottle-bricking workshop at the local school that was facilitated by Gabriel Rojas Sandoval, Javier Martinez and Pedro Rodríguez. This workshop was phenomenally successful, and engaged and interested all of the local teachers. Pedro shared many pressing issues around littering and how it affects both health and the environment.
The last morning of the retreat, Saturday, January 24th, Hun K’at in the Mayan Calendar, we closed out our project planning session with beautiful ceremony. Hun means unity, a unique absolute truth. K’at means the ordered pattern of growth, fertile soil and the mystery that blooms through power of intention or seed thoughts. The seed of K’at is corn, the fertile grain of creation. We each offered one personal sacred item into the ceremony and put our intentions and visions into them and burned copal (which grows on our land), the food of the Mayan Gods. We took these items to the land on a ceremonial walk to bury them in the soil. We planted our seeds of intentions together, and asked for the guidance of our those who came before us and the protectors of pachamama. We asked permission of the land for us to be here and do this good work.
Our team feels immense gratitude for the compassion, love, attention and great dynamic wisdom that each person brought to this magical land. Our super-charged two-week planning session came to a close, but it is only the beginning of a great and epic dream.