In 2011, Nuevos Horizontes was offered the use of a 12 acre tract of land in the town of San Lucas, under a 30 year lease agreement. The land is situated in a national forest, and the idea was born to transform it into a recreational center for the children served by the “Project Smile” initiative, since a major concern for institutionalized Guatemalan children is the lack of recreational opportunities, particularly to have contact with nature.
After a long and involved process to obtain necessary permits (due to the land being situated in a federally protected area), construction began in early 2012. Phase 1 will see the completion of the community/activity center, as part of a long-term building program to be completed in stages, as funding becomes available.
The community center building has a large meeting room with fireplace, two bathroom modules, a smaller classroom and a large storage room.
As soon as Phase 1 is complete (tentatively February 2013), Nuevos Horizontes will begin to hold day camps, sports days, and other activities for groups of 20 to 50 orphaned and underprivileged children.
The next phases will include further development of the recreational areas to feature nature trails, tree houses, canopy swings, hiking trails, sports fields, a vegetable garden, playground and bonfire area.
Other eventual services may include a food distribution program at the center, and medical and dental missions for underprivileged rural residents.
In collaboration with several local environmental organizations, Nuevos Horizontes is facilitating ecology education initiatives, including a major reforestation program on the project site which saw a group of over 100 volunteers—students, professionals, Nuevos Horizontes staff and others—joining together to help transform the landscape surrounding the community center.
Contact with these organizations has led to eventual plans for ecology-related initiatives and programs for the orphans, to be conducted by university students and interns under the supervision of the project coordinators.