Local Efforts to Help Students In a Not-So Local Place

Dec 21, 2015

There are many reasons people give. The opportunity to “be a part of something bigger than yourself” is not an uncommon expression. For Chance and Sherry Potts, helping raise funds for and to build a bottle school in Guatemala brings with it many reasons.

For starters, there’s a huge need in the Central American country where 56 percent live in poverty and nearly one-third of citizens are illiterate.  

“I think the first thing that struck me was just the level of poverty that’s there, the limited education in the entire country – the number of schools that are needed,” said Chance Potts.

For the past several months, the Potts have been raising money to construct a three classroom school there made up of 10,000 bottles. This unique construction process involves filling plastic bottles with inorganic trash that will then be encased in chicken wire and cement to form the school’s walls.

“There’s not a great sanitation system in Guatemala as I understand and so they’re actually taking a lot of this trash that’s just sitting and they’re doing something with it – doing something good with it.”

To date, these nearly 70 completed bottle schools have been made possible through the non-profit Hug it Forward and partner agencies like WorldVentures, of which Chance and Sherry are members. Through its charity arm WorldVenture Foundation, the Potts are working to raise $19,000 to construct the school. So far they’ve raised  just under $12,000.  

Dive beyond the challenges facing Guatemalan children and the country as a whole and we learn about another important reason the Potts are committed to this project; their late son Landon.

It was a little over a year ago that the two lost their oldest of three sons, then 17, to a car accident that also killed three of his friends. The community support that immediately following was vast, and since then the Potts have been working to pay forward that kindness.

“We’ve been very fortunate to have such a strong community come around us in Nixa and Springfield in the area for a couple of causes, and we just wanna do everything that we can to move forward and live and give as much as we can.”

The full impact of their efforts will come to fruition next year as the couple is planning two trips to help construct the bottle school. The Potts credit fundraising success to local WorldVentures representatives, word of mouth campaigning and some social media. Here's the website to learn more.

“Really our method initially has been just to ask individuals for $10 because it’s something that’s affordable,” Chance Potts said. “People get hit up with things all the time, especially this time of year.” 

“We’ve also made Yolo t-shirts,” adds Sherry. “Landon’s favorite saying was Yolo – You only live once – and so we made t-shirts and made $10 a t-shirt.”

Sales of the t-shirt – which is a tribute to Landon’s love for rodeo - have accounted for roughly $2,500 of fundraising to date, they say.

Sherry starts, “We actually took a picture of Landon roping and that’s on the back of it and it says…”

CHANCE POTTS: Dream bigger, live bigger, give bigger.

SHERRY POTTS: Thank you, honey. And it says ‘In Memory of Landon Chance Potts.”

A promotional video of a Guatemala visit and bottle school build, part of what WorldVentures calls its VolunTour option, portrays a deep connection between volunteers and community members. The Potts say they’re excited about the opportunity to go down, understanding the hard work that is needed but anticipating the strong bonds that await them.  

“I think that will be special to get to know these kids that are gonna go in to the school. The kids that are actually gonna be educated there actually help build the school. I’ve heard that is it extremely difficult to leave, and I would imagine that that would be the case once we get down there.”

The emotion they’ll likely feel in Central American is evident here in the Ozarks; given the contributions the Potts have received not only to help the youth down south but in honor of their son.

“You just feel very blessed to have the support that we have. So many different groups of people and we’re just thankful throughout the many years of working and living in the Ozarks and in this community to have surrounded our self with great people. They’ve helped us to definitely grow in many ways in life and we’re just thankful to be a part of that with them and just to continue to do our best to be good stewards of what we’ve been given and to be able to give back and help other people do the same.”

The Potts will make two trips down, the first to reflect one phase of the construction process. The second trip will serve as a dedication ceremony.

Chance Potts says he grew up fairly poor by U.S. standards but still earned a decent education. After learning about the challenges of youth in countries like Guatemala, he has a deeper appreciate for the knowledge he gained stateside and says we sometimes we take for granted the quality of our nation’s education system.

“Knowing that there are kids that at the age of 12 and 13 in other countries they have no education they just go work out in the fields – and that’s generation after generation after generation – we’re able to give people an opportunity to give as little as $10 to make a huge impact in a child’s life that will have an education to get them further and to help change the trajectory of their family and their country.”

An added bonus to the Potts’ efforts may include naming rights to the school or a section of it. Chance says it’s a new option being considered for project fundraisers this year. That means children in Guatemala could soon be learning from within the Landon Chance Potts Bottle School. But as his mother and father state, if Landon had it his way,

“It would be all Coca-Cola bottles,” she said. Chance adds, “Yeah he was pretty much an addict of drinking Coke.”

Access the TEAM Yolo donation page here.