Hug It Forward Volunteer Humza Shamsuddin, right, is shown with a child from the community in Xeatzan Bajo building a bottle school in March. Kelly Clobes of Newark Township will be headed to Guatemala on June 6 to put the finishing touches on the school as part of a “voluntour” project.

NEWARK TOWNSHIP — Kelly Clobes of Toubl Enterprises, a local food processing company, will be using trash to create an educational treasure in Guatemala.

During a “voluntour” trip on June 9 to help young people in Guatemala have a brighter future, she will help put the finishing touches on a “bottle school” in the community of Xeatzan Bajo through the Hug it Forward multicultural organization. The school has been built in three trips, with various volunteers starting construction of the school in February. Clobe’s group will finish the school and be part of a ribbon cutting to mark its completion.

To address a problem with excess trash and lack of education, those with Hug it Forward use eco-bricks, or plastic bottles stuffed with inorganic trash, to build schools.

Clobes said many kids in Guatemala have to leave school in their early teens to work and don’t always have the opportunity to pursue higher education.

“All kids deserve the ability to reach their full potential. If we can offer our hands and/or financial means to have a place to learn, it’s all worth it,” Clobes said.

Clobes is raising funds to offset the cost of her $2,000 trip to spend a week in the country. It includes airfare, accommodations, a tour guide, security team and insurance.

Hug It Forward, which operates at the grassroots level in the region of Latin America, with an emphasis in Guatemala, facilitates education and awareness around improved trash management methods via the construction of bottle schools. During the project process, communities come together to build a more environmentally responsible educational space for their future.

“We have the children and adults within the community who come to assist during the process. They get to help build their own schools,” Clobes said.

Bottle classrooms are built using the established method of post-and-beam construction. The foundations, columns and beams are made from concrete reinforced with rebar. Unlike cinder-blocks which are not very environmentally responsible, eco-bricks are more economical and help clean the environment.

“They act as the insulation and reduce costs,” Clobes said.

Once the bottles are stuffed with inorganic trash, gaps are filled with plastic bags and inorganic trash and are then bound between layers of chicken wire. They are then covered with concrete and finally with orange paint.

The project involves the community resulting in a sense of pride and ownership, according to the Hug It Forward website at

Hug It Forward has built 131 schools in Guatemala. The school structures cost about $7,000 per classroom.

Clobes became aware of Hug it Forward through a former travel group she belonged to and the World Ventures Foundation that partnered with Hug it Forward to help build 110 schools.

She has worked with a network of hundreds of people worldwide to help raise $19,000 in funds to build the school in Xeatzan Bajo, as well as elsewhere.

If anyone would like to help sponsor Clobes they can contact her by email at or paypal using the same email address. If anyone would like to support Hug It Forward directly, they can go through the Hug It Forward website.

“I’m excited for this tip because I truly care about education and how what we do globally impacts us here at home,” she said.

Clobes is the mother of Morgan Clobes, 10, who attends Cunningham Intermediate School and Calliope Clobes, 9, who attends Hackett Elementary School. Clobes is president of the Hackett PTO and heads up the food pantry at the school.