Minnesota volunteers build schoolhouse in Central America made from plastic bottles

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Dec 29, 2023

Minnesota volunteers build schoolhouse in Central America made from plastic bottles

By Susan-Elizabeth Littlefield February 15, 2023

By Susan-Elizabeth Littlefield

February 15, 2023 / 5:05 PM / CBS Minnesota

MINNEAPOLIS -- Imagine living your whole life and having no idea what you look like. That's a reality in some developing countries. The Minnesota-based company Lifetouch is helping change that while also turning trash into treasure.

It was in 2000 that the company decided to turn a new page. Jan Haeg is the manager of the company's Giveback Program, and says she is in awe of how things have grown since they took the leap.

"It has evolved over the years, and that's what's been exciting," Haeg said.

They started taking educators, teachers, superintendents, and yearbook editors from all over North America down to Central America to open eyes, open hearts, and open their lens. Haeg, who organizes the yearly Memory Mission trip, says showing the kids their own photos is quite powerful.

"Very emotional, actually," she said.

The January trip this year was full of emotion and exertion. Alongside 400 kids and their families, and under the leadership of a group called Hug it Forward, they built a schoolhouse made of plastic bottles.

Local families collected litter and stuffed the bottles with trash.

"It can be chip bags, grocery bags, anything that's inorganic they shove in there," Haeg said.

Just one bottle has 18 plastic bags inside. The bottles are then tied to chicken wire, and 10,000 bottles make one new schoolhouse.

"It really is the community that built the school. And in this case it was the 29 of us showing up and providing muscle," Haeg said.

The group also provided photos to share with residents down there, and give them an idea of what they actually look like. The response, Haeg said, was heartwarming.

"I will never think of a hug the same," she said.

Just like that, there's less trash and more love -- and they have the pictures to prove it.

Any educators can apply to go on next year's trip. Click here for more information.

Susan-Elizabeth Littlefield loves sharing the good news. She hosts a show on Sunday mornings based on local "positivity and empowerment," leading right into CBS Sunday Morning.

First published on February 15, 2023 / 5:05 PM

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