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Paxoj, Guatemala


Paxoj is an aldea, or village, in the municipality of Huitán in Guatemala’s Quetzaltenango department. Located high in the mountains, the community school sits above the single road running through the aldea.

The people are of Mayan descent and speak Mam as the local language. Most of the residents have completed at least a few years of school and speak Spanish as a second language. The majority of community members work as land-owning maize farmers and have multiple children.

The community’s primary engineering challenge is deforestation. The deforestation of the nearby hilltops for agriculture has led to increased runoff in the village, including at the schools we are working with. This, along with more erratic weather due to climate change, has fueled an increased rate of erosion on the properties.

In past at years, EWB-Vanderbilt has completed a sanitation project and implemented a septic system.

The elementary school in Paxoj is directly adjacent to a very steep earthen wall suffering from erosion. If the erosion of this wall continues at the current rate for the next few years, there could be significant harm to the school, specifically to the school’s bathrooms, basketball court, and kitchen, all of which are very close to the edge of this wall. This issue was discovered on the assessment trip to Guatemala which took place in early 2020. EWB-Vanderbilt aims to design a retaining wall to protect this earthen wall from further erosion.


  • Design and implement a retaining wall


  • Identified the harmful threat of erosion during the 2020 trip to Guatemala
  • Started a new design team to address the threat
  • Submitted the pre-assessment trip document
  • Performed a remote assessment trip