CNN report on Chagas disease shows why Fuller Center’s work in Bolivia is so important

CNN report on Chagas disease shows why Fuller Center’s work in Bolivia is so important

(Photo: A family that recently moved from a mud shack to a new Fuller Center home in Mizque, Bolivia.)

CNN is reporting today that a new study shows that Chagas is a more deadly disease than was feared, and that a child with Chagas is two to three times more likely to die as a result of complications from the infection.

The disease is spread by what is known as “the kissing bug,” a seemingly harmless name but one that is given because of where it likes to bite people as they sleep — around the mouth and lips. The bugs then defecate in the wounds they leave, allowing the parasite Trypanasoma cruzi to infiltrate the victim’s bloodstream and cause Chagas.

The so-called kissing bug thrives in South American adobe homes and mud huts. One such community of mud huts where Chagas has festered is the village of Mizque, Bolivia. The Fuller Center for Housing of Bolivia, however, is stopping the bug in its tracks by replacing these shacks and huts with solid brick homes.

It is hoped that The Fuller Center’s 60-home community of safe, new homes in Mizque will inspire others to take note of the crucial role a simple, decent home plays in stemming not just the spread of Chagas but of many other diseases and illnesses. Studies have repeatedly shown that a child who grows up in a decent home does better in school, is happier, and, as this project demonstrates, has better health outcomes than those who grow up in poverty housing conditions.

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Photo gallery of The Fuller Center’s work in Mizque, Bolivia:

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Churches, Fuller Center team up to help veteran and wife build home in Bossier City, La.

Churches, Fuller Center team up to help veteran and wife build home in Bossier City, La.

(Photo: Rhonda and Sterling Combs)

The Fuller Center of Northwest Louisiana’s 57th new home build overall will be its third in Bossier City, Louisiana, thanks to three churches partnering to help veteran Sterling Combs and his wife Rhonda have a simple, decent place to live.

The Simple Church, Asbury United Methodist Church and Praise Temple are powering “The Molly Build” in memory of Melissa Rose Maggio, who was among three teens killed in a car wreck in 2006.

For video coverage of Wednesday’s wall-raising ceremony, click here.

KTBS-TV report here

John J. Staton: Five decades of supporting Fuller ministry is all about hands-on faith

John J. Staton: Five decades of supporting Fuller ministry is all about hands-on faith

(Photo: Millard Fuller’s early work in Africa inspired the Rev. John J. Staton, who continues to support The Fuller Center for Housing’s work decades later.)

When Millard and Linda Fuller founded The Fuller Center for Housing in 2005, retired pastor John J. Staton was among the earliest supporters. Of course, when the Fullers went to Africa in the early 1970s to test the concept of partnership housing, he supported them then.

Today, at age 88, he continues to give every month. He is especially proud to support a ministry that gave Millard Fuller some of the happiest years of his life as The Fuller Center gave him an opportunity to return and recommit to the grass-roots, Christian principles that he and Linda began with decades ago.

“It’s incredible what The Fuller center has done and accomplished since 2005, and I’m glad I’ve been able to play a role” Staton says from his home in Carmel, Indiana. “I get a real sense of joy every time I write a check to The Fuller Center, and it will always be so. I’ll continue to give to The Fuller Center as long as I live.”

“What The Fuller Center is doing is based on faith. Millard built things squarely on the Gospel and on faith. It appealed to me as a hands-on example of following Jesus.” — John J. Staton

Staton, who grew up in the suburbs of Columbus, Ohio, was Ivy League-educated at Dartmouth College, where he planned to become a doctor before going into ministry and attending Union Theological Seminary in New York City. It was that faith journey that would acquaint him with a young Millard Fuller, who also had experienced an abrupt change of direction in his life after giving up his millionaire lifestyle to serve others.

“He was deeply inspired by Clarence Jordan,” Staton says of Fuller’s relationship with mentor theologian Clarence Jordan, founder of Koinonia Farm. “I used to correspond with him even though I’d never met him, and I gave him some money for the work in Africa. That was long before they’d started Habitat or anything else.”

After the Fullers returned to the United States in 1976 and founded Habitat for Humanity, Staton’s correspondence with Millard continued. Eventually, Staton would bring Millard to speak at churches in Central Indiana and hosted the Fullers at the home he shared with wife Shirley. (Shirley Staton passed away in 2001.) After retiring from the pulpit, the Statons even came to Americus, Georgia, to volunteer with Habitat — John in development and Shirley as a guide at the Global Village and Discovery Center.

“The more I got to know Millard and Linda during those three months with Habitat, the more I admired what they were doing,” Staton says. Though he was frustrated by the Fullers’ dismissal by Habitat, he was eager to support them in their return to grass-roots, Christian principles with The Fuller Center.

“A lot of my connections to The Fuller Center are built on top of a friendship with him,” Staton says. “I believed in his mission. What The Fuller Center is doing is based on faith. Millard built things squarely on the Gospel and on faith. It appealed to me as a hands-on example of following Jesus.”

While spreading the Gospel through Millard’s “Theology of the Hammer” and by putting faith into action are what most appeals to him in supporting The Fuller Center, he also knows the importance of growing up in a decent home. He grew up in a solid middle-class home during the Great Depression, a home his parents purchased with a $10,000 inheritance from his great-grandmother.

“That was the only home I knew until I was out of college,” Staton says. “It’s still in good condition, although that lawn seemed to be huge when I had to mow it as a child. Now it looks like a postage stamp.

“But I have nothing but happy memories of that home,” he adds. “I fell in love as a senior in high school with a girl who lived just six blocks from me. I got to know every pebble in the street riding my bike back and forth between our two houses. I married that girl (Shirley, to whom he was married for 50 years) after college. I had a very happy childhood living in that house.”

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200th Fuller Center home in Haiti home exemplifies what makes this ministry work

200th Fuller Center home in Haiti home exemplifies what makes this ministry work

(Photo: A local laborer puts the finished touches on the 38th Fuller Center home in Pigñon, Haiti — the first paid for entirely with repayments by previous partner families in the community.)

If I had a nickel for every time I saw a comment like “I wish The Fuller Center would give me a house,” well, I’d have at least $1.85. Of course, I’ve only worked in this ministry for six years. Those who’ve been here longer likely would boast a lot more in their piggy banks.

My first reaction when I see a comment like that on a social media post about the dedication or completion of another Fuller Center for Housing home — here in the United States or abroad — is frustration. However, I have to remind myself that it’s a great opportunity to educate someone who is obviously unfamiliar with the grass-roots principles behind this ministry.

Of course, The Fuller Center does not give away houses. Families build in partnership with us. They commit sweat equity in the building of their homes (often alongside volunteers but also with local laborers) and pay back the building costs on terms they can afford, over time, with no interest charged and no profit made.

Here is the simple concept that truly makes this ministry succeed and grow in each location: Families truly pay it forward as their repayments go into a Fund for Humanity that stay in the community and help their neighbors in need get the very same kind of hand-up into better living conditions. The families, therefore, are not charity cases but are transformed into givers themselves. This empowers families in ways that handouts cannot.

Those who’ve been involved with this ministry are familiar with such pay-it-forward concepts our founder Millard Fuller developed based on partnership principles he learned from theologian Clarence Jordan at historic Koinonia Farm in the 1960s. To newcomers, however — such as those who stumble across a story about The Fuller Center and jump to the conclusion that we give away houses — this is new information.

“One of the blessings that the Fuller Center model offers the poor is the opportunity it gives for them to be more than just recipients of goodwill but donors, as well.” — Fuller Center President David Snell

And it’s a concept they like and embrace. For those who hate handouts, they like that this is a hand-up instead. For those who are unconditionally dedicated to helping the poor, they like that families are empowered to help themselves and break the generational cycle of poverty.

There’s a reason why The Fuller Center is supported by those on the far right, the extreme left and all points in between: Because no one is against helping people help themselves!

The Fund for Humanity concept means that the more Fuller Center homes a community builds, the more it can build. This means that our supporters’ contributions don’t go toward just one house but many. Gifts are recycled, and home-building becomes a rolling snowball, growing along the way.

“One of the blessings that the Fuller Center model offers the poor is the opportunity it gives for them to be more than just recipients of goodwill but donors, as well,” Fuller Center President David Snell says. “And one of the blessings our model gives the rich is that the money they give is multiplied so that they’re not just giving for a single house to be built but for many. This all happens through the Fund for Humanity.  Both the donor dollars and the homeowners mortgage payments go into this fund which is used to build more and more houses.”

More to this milestone in Haiti

The 200th Fuller Center home in Haiti — made possible by volunteers, local workers and supporters like you — is a milestone for that number alone. But there’s more to it. Our 200th Fuller Center home in the country is the 38th in the community of Pigñon, far away from the earthquake-damaged zone where we first began working in 2010.

This 38th home is entirely funded by repayments made by the partner families of the previous 37 homes in Pigñon. These repayments will fund more homes, and when these repayments are coupled with donations by people like you the success multiplies exponentially.

A few of the houses built in Pigñon this year.

As our Director of International Field Operations Ryan Iafigliola noted, there’s always more to every milestone number.

“With the large family sizes in Haiti, that’s over a thousand people spending every night in a dry, safe and permanent Fuller Center home,” he said. “After the earthquake struck, it was such a struggle even to build the first one. Now at 200, they seem to roll one after another, using volunteers and employing local Haitians.”

“But the best part, the very best part, is that we now have a program that others said couldn’t be done — where Haitians fund the homes of other Haitians,” he added of the Western Hemisphere’s poorest nation, where decades of well-meaning handouts have exacerbated the country’s problems and helped foster a culture of dependency. “The Biblical model of a no-profit, no-interest loan is incredibly powerful and empowering, and we’re thrilled that Pigñon has embraced it. But this is no time to stop or slow down. Haiti badly needs homes and partners.”

There indeed is more work to be done in Haiti. And Nicaragua. And Nepal. And Lanett, Alabama. And Louisville, Kentucky. But in these places and dozens more across the United States and around the world, the grass-roots principles of partnership housing have taken root and allowing the pay-it-forward model to flourish.

We will never stray from those simple principles with which Millard was so inspired more than four decades ago. And we will stay true to those principles for the simplest reason:

Because they work!

 


 

Fuller Center President David Snell explains why The Fuller Center for Housing does not give houses away:

 

 

There is more to some housing projects than first meets the eye

There is more to some housing projects than first meets the eye

Last week, I spent a little time with Mr. Earnest Solomon of Americus, Georgia. At 78, he still gets around his home fairly well. It almost makes you wonder why he needed a wheelchair ramp added to his home.

Actually, he didn’t. It was for his wife, Evelyn. As her health declined with her children living far away, they asked the Americus-Sumter Fuller Center for Housing if they could build a ramp for her.

“They were concerned about her falling,” said my friend Thad Harris, who is confined to a wheelchair himself and lives in a specially designed, ultra-accessible Fuller Center home of his own and who has become one of The Fuller Center’s most prolific volunteers as well as a local board member. “So, we agreed to help.”

Sadly, Evelyn passed away in February of this year. But the children asked if they could still tackle the project for Earnest before he lost mobility.

“They did a great job,” Earnest Solomon said of the volunteers who built the ramp behind his home.

“They’re looking out for me farther down the line — just in case,” Mr. Solomon said. “I’m a diabetic, so you never know. Plus, I’m getting up there in age, too.”

On the surface, a ramp project may not seem like a very big deal. But ramps like these allow many disabled and elderly residents to stay in the homes they love rather than moving in with relatives or into assisted-living facilities.

The Fuller Center builds new homes and repairs existing ones. We work with families to provide a better life for their children, with middle-aged formerly homeless folks who are putting their lives back together and with many seniors, including the disabled and veterans.

Maybe a ramp seems like a big deal to me because I saw how my grandfather struggled with mobility. He lost his legs to a German machine-gunner in Tunisia in 1943 as a member of the legendary 1st Ranger Battalion (“Darby’s Rangers”). First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt wrote about him, Cpl. Fred Dixon, in this column from Feb. 21, 1944, and this one from Feb. 25, 1944. He won a prize for selling war bonds on a national radio show and got to spend time with the first family at the White House, even having dinner with the family and going with them to see a performance by the National Symphony Orchestra.

In the decades that followed, life grew tougher for my grandfather. He went from war hero to forgotten veteran. Parking spaces for the disabled and wheelchair ramps were few and far between. They’ve become a far more common sight since he died in 1981. That’s great to see.

But there are those who still feel trapped in their inadequate homes. There are those who fear that the rotting floor in the bathroom will lead to a life-altering fall or that the leak in the roof will ultimately lead to their home’s demise.

I’d like to thank all of The Fuller Center’s financial supporters whose gifts have helped hundreds of good people like Mr. Solomon and Thad be comfortable in the homes they love. I’d also like to thank the volunteers who have worked on these kinds of projects, including those from Congregational United Church of Christ of St. Charles, Illinois, who helped Mr. Solomon on this project.

There are few things more exciting than seeing a team of volunteers raise that first wall on a brand new house where children will grow and have a strong foundation for success. But there are also few things more gratifying than hearing these two words from people like Mr. Solomon, who will get to stay in the homes they’ve grown to love over the years:

“THANK YOU!”

Please enjoy this slideshow of volunteers from Congregational UCC working on Mr. Solomon’s ramp:

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Bicycle Adventure’s spring stop in Houston, Mississippi, extra special this year

Bicycle Adventure’s spring stop in Houston, Mississippi, extra special this year

For the past six years, the Fuller Center Bicycle Adventure has visited Houston, Miss., and been hosted by Parkway Baptist Church during its annual Spring Ride down the Natchez Trace Parkway.

This year the stop had added meaning because the local Habitat for Humanity affiliate in Houston recently switched to The Fuller Center for Housing’s ministry and not only hosted cyclists this year but also put them to work on their first Fuller Center house.

The Chickasaw Journal has a report on the stop and build day at the link below:

chickasaw journal report

Fuller Center’s ministry featured in BBB Wise Giving Alliance’s Building Trust video

Fuller Center’s ministry featured in BBB Wise Giving Alliance’s Building Trust video

Art Taylor, President and CEO of the Better Business Bureau’s Wise Giving Alliance, recently chatted by Skype with Fuller Center President David Snell. In the three-minute video, they talk about The Fuller Center’s work around the world and how meeting all 20 standards measured by the BBB’s Wise Giving Alliance helps the ministry enhance our credibility and trust with supporters.

 

 

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New covenant partner in Hazleton, Pa., dedicates first house with Fuller Center

New covenant partner in Hazleton, Pa., dedicates first house with Fuller Center

(Photo: Pastor Ron Radtke of Victory Bible Church blesses Noelkys Rodriguez’s new home and presents the owner with a Bible.)

Noelkys Rodriguez and her two children now have a simple, decent home thanks to renovations she and volunteers were able to make to a property donated to the Hazleton Area Fuller Center for Housing in Pennsylvania, a former Habitat for Humanity affiliate.

“I’m so proud,” board member Ted Sherrock told the Standard-Speaker newspaper at Sunday’s dedication. “She is going to realize the American Dream that may not otherwise have the opportunity.”

Not only did Rodriguez put in more than 150 hours of sweat equity on the house herself, but she has served as a volunteer and board member with the Hazleton housing group for the past four years.

read the complete story in the standard-speaker