Global Builders Blog
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I am SO incredibly excited to be leading my third build trip to Haiti this coming August with the Fuller Center! I hope that many of you will join me this time or in the future (and there will be plenty of trips in the future!!).
I am very excited to return to Haiti, not only because I FINALLY gets to co-lead a trip with my awesome friend, Dave Dobson, but also because I get to return to see the wonderful people at Lambi who have come to mean so much to me. I am also THRILLED to be able to return to spend time at the orphanages run by friends of mine through Mission Haiti Helping Kids, an organization that is near and dear to my heart.
Many of you have been so very generous and supportive of my past trips, and for that, I am eternally grateful! If you feel you would like to contribute to my trip, please do so, and please remember that every little bit is immensely appreciated. Thank you for helping me the people of Haiti and for allowing me to pursue the work that I truly LOVE.
With deep gratitude an love,
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A dyanmic and dedicated team from Mercer University, Georgia, USA, led by Dr Chris Grant and co-led by Dr Ann Drake & Dr Ashley Murray, visited the Trivandrum Fuller Center for Housing, India on a Global Builders' Mission from July 17 to August 03, 2012. During their stay, the team members worked for three homeowner families and witnessed the dedication of one Fuller Home. They are understood to have left India cherishing unforgettable experiences gained from their interactions with the local Board and the people around. They enjoyed being exposed to cultural performances and recreational activities. The few pictures below will bear testimony to their memorable visit to Trivandrum, the capital of Kerala, God's Own Country.
I asked God to extend my territory, and he has given me the opportunity to be a part of the Fuller Center for Housing Bicycle Adventure this summer! I believe helping people in need and sharing the amazing things God has done in our lives it the best combination. Putting Faith in Action by lifting families out of proverty housing is a way of showing the community how the Love of God is in us."I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words that Lord Jesus himself said: 'It is more blessed to give than to receive.'" Acts 20:35
Focusing on the plans of God opens up doors of opportunities to grow. This trip will not only help me grow spiritualy, but also will show the people the everlasting and ever loving God we serve. I'm very excited for this life changing experience and to see what God has in store for us. :)"If anyone has material possesions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear Children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth" 1John 3:17-18
In 2006, our family adopted a daughter from Armenia. We wanted a connection to the larger world and we chose to adopt internationally. When we adopted Milena, we changed her life forever. We gave her a family and a home, but she gave us so much more. She opened our eyes to a new world beyond our own.
Our trip to Armenia in 2006 was a transformative one. It is very humbling to watch a mother visit her child in the orphanage, knowing that she must leave her child there because she doesn’t have enough money to raise her child at home.
We saw poverty in Armenia, but we also saw an inspiring industrial spirit. I have learned through our adoption that one act can have a ripple effect that can change the lives of many. That is why I feel this program is so valuable. Building one home may not seem like such a large thing, but it will permanently improve the life of an entire family. That act of kindness can ripple through a community to impact everyone positively.
In June 2012, Kjell and I will travel with a group of mothers and sons from St. Sahag Armenian Church to Vanadzor, in northern Armenia. In 1988, this area experienced a large earthquake, killing and maiming many and leaving a large population homeless. Almost 25 years later, many families still live in metal shipping containers called “domics”.
Housing is such a basic need. Once met, I hope the families that Fuller Center serves can devote their time to building up their lives and pay our kindness forward to help another family.
One act of kindness can have a ripple effect that reaches around the world. Please consider supporting our effort.
For those of you that don’t know me my name is Jeffrey Blain and I enjoy riding my bike and have a love of the outdoors. I have been an avid cyclist since 1983 and an advocate of the sport just as long. So, I am always looking for ways to combine the sport I love with helping others in need. The Fuller Center for Housing has given me the opportunity to do this and much more. I am so grateful and appreciative that I get to meet and ride with like-minded people.
Last year I participated in a fund raising event for starving children in Africa. The one-week event, which entailed; for every mile I rode for the week I would generate $1 to the cause. I am happy to say that I rode 690 miles in one week, the longest day being 173 miles. As a whole we raised over $50,000 for the kids in Africa. When I told my friends and family about what I did, they all inevitably asked, “Why didn’t you tell me, I would have contributed as well.” Well, this time I am giving everyone a ‘heads-up’ about my latest fund raising event.
This March I will be riding in a one-week 400 mile fund raising event from Tennessee to Mississippi on the Natchez Trail. The Fuller Center for Housing is a 501(c)(3) Christian based non-profit organization that provides housing for families in need. Not only do they do this in our home borders but internationally as well. All donations are tax-deductible and the 501(c)(3) number is available upon request.
With your financial generosity perhaps you and I can help one family meet a basic human need: SHELTER! My goal is to raise $3,750 for this event. It may be a cliché, but every little bit does help! You can participate by donating $.01, $.10, or $1 per mile, or more if you wish.
I wish to thank you all in advance for helping me to achieve my $3,750 fund raising goal.
On Jan. 12, 2010, a 7.0-magnitude earthquake struck Port-au-Prince, Haiti.
· More than two million people were affected.
· Nearly 190,000 houses were damaged; of those, 105,000 were completely destroyed.
· More than 500,000 survivors remain homeless - a population as large as Oslo, Norway; Panama City, Panama; or Las Vegas, Nevada.
I’m proud and honored to announce that I’ll be joining the “Grace Fuller Center” and “One Small House" in spring 2012 as we travel to Haiti to build simple, decent homes for families displaced by the devastating earthquake of January 2010. We will partner with homeowners and local Haitian craftspeople to construct six homes as part of a 56-home development already underway in Lambi, a site located between the cities of Carrefour and Leogane, not far from the epicenter of the earthquake.
We will not be building temporary shelters, but permanent homes, designed to withstand earthquakes and category 4 hurricanes, and positioned to be at the center of a new community. Prior to the earthquake, Haiti was the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere. Afterward, conditions became immeasurably worse. Granted, we all have the natural tendency to block out horrible news, political strife and economic corruption. We think: What can I, one person, do? In Haiti, however, progress has been made. Rubble has been cleared. Rebuilding has begun, and some people have moved out of their temporary quarters and where possible, returned home. The Haitian people are determined and hardworking and deserve the assistance of us, their more fortunate neighbors. Why go? We will not cure all of Haiti’s ills, but in the words of Edward Hale, “I am only one, but I am one. I cannot do everything, but I can do something. And I will not let what I cannot do interfere with what I can do.”
For those of you who remember my brother Pierre, or the family cottage we used to own, one thing we always said in french: “A gang, on peut le faire”. In english, “All together, we can do it”.
It is with great privilege that I’m dedicating this trip to the memory of my brother Pierre, who would always put the needs of others ahead of his. No matter what the consequences were. At the moment, I’m planning on attending trip no. 90029 (March 25-31). With your help, and generosity, I would like to spend three weeks in Haiti. There is another build on April 8 to 14 (trip no. 90030) and the Residence Filariose, where we will be staying in Léogane as accepted for me to do some volunteer work for them, should I choose and afford to stay.
I love you Bro, and I hope I’ll make you proud.
My fundraising goal is $3,000.
It's with great privilege and honour that I'm announcing my effort to do my part in the re-building of Haiti.
On Jan. 12, 2010, a 7.0-magnitude earthquake struck Port-au-Prince, Haiti.
- More than two million people were affected.
- Nearly 190,000 houses were damaged; of those, 105,000 were completely destroyed.
- More than 500,000 survivors remain homeless - a population as large as Oslo, Norway; Panama City, Panama; or Las Vegas, Nevada.
A dire need for helping hands
Haiti has long been the poorest country in the western hemisphere. In a country with few building inspectors and poor construction techniques, it was only a matter of time before tragedy struck.
When that tragedy appeared in the form of the January 2010 earthquake, the results were devastating. Thousands of buildings collapsed, killing 200,000 people.
Today, hundreds of thousands are still living in tents and permanent housing is Haiti's greatest need. Our volunteers are helping Haitians get back on their feet by building highly earthquake- and hurricane-resistant houses.
March 25-31, 2012 - Partnered with the Grace Fuller Center, One Small House, and homeowners and local Haitian craftspeople I will be matching my effort to the efforts of other volunteers, in continuing a project that was started in Lambi The project calls to construct six homes as part of a 56-home development already underway in Lambi, a site located between the cities of Carrefour and Leogane, not far from the epicenter of the earthquake.
Brittani Howel, one of our Global Builders' team members shares her great experience in Armenia with Fuller Center for Housing Armenia:
We came as strangers. We came as volunteers: the Mercer Service Scholars, the FCHA's first university group. We came as odars — as non-Armenians, as outsiders. Only one of our group of fourteen students and two professors had any ties to the country: our fellow student Jessie Boloyan, whose grandmother came from Armenia decades ago. By the time we left we were no longer strangers, and while we may still be odars we no longer feel that way.
The people there amazed us with their generosity, their kindness, and their cheerfulness in the midst of hardship and hard work. Through the Fuller Center we worked with the Ghazaryan and the Avetikyan families, and though we thought that we had come to serve them, they actually gave us more than we could ever repay. Through kind smiles, laughter, patience on the work site, and some truly fantastic Armenian home cooking, the families showered us with hospitality and friendliness. The highlights of our days on the work sites were playing with the unforgettable children of the families, who quickly stole our hearts. We will be telling stories about Siramarg, Siuzi, Suren, Vahan, and Samson for years to come.
With the Fuller Center we had the privilege of working with, not for, the people we had come to serve, and we came to admire their strength and resilience. Once, when I was shoveling cement for the floor of the Avetikyan family's new house, their oldest son Samson approached me. To my astonishment, this ten-year-old boy took my shovel and began scooping the cement into buckets more quickly and more accurately than I could. Armenia, clearly, is not a place that “needs” help. It is, however, a place that graciously accepts helping hands when they are offered, and that values partnership and friendship. Being allowed to work on their houses alongside them was an honor — an honor, we learned, that not many non-Armenians get to experience.
One phrase I heard several times during our stay was this: “No one there understands what it's like here.” Most Americans without an Armenian background know very little about the country's rich culture, its struggles, or its triumphs. One of our Armenian friends had studied in the United States for several months, and she expressed her frustration that some of her American friends had been so ignorant about what Armenia is actually like. There is a gap between the two cultures, and it is typically only those who occupy both worlds—that is, Armenian-Americans—who set out across the ocean to close that gap. But my impression of the Armenian people is that they want to understand as much as they want to be understood, making the distance between our cultures seem very small indeed to those who are willing to cross it.
We started out as odar, but by the time we left Armenia we had, by the grace of the people we met, been invited to be so much more. We were guests, partners, unofficial babysitters, playmates. Occasionally—particularly with our driver, Melik—we were co-conspirators in playful, good-natured pranking. We were no longer strangers to Armenia; we were friends.
I don't think any person on our team can express just how grateful we are for what Armenia and her people have given us. We can't describe just how beautiful a place it is, and I'm not just talking about the landscape. Armenia defies description. If you want to know what we mean—if you want to understand the amazing country and people we encountered on our journey—then you will have to go yourself. If our experience is anything to go by, rest assured that you will not be odar for long.
The Congo River is the deepest and the ninth longest on the planet. It is the lifeline for a nation in which roads and railways are lacking. Goods are shipped, food is caught, clothes are washed, people bathe, and all sorts of wonderful acts happen on the river. It is the source of life for the over 30 million people who live in the region.
Over 11,000 forest plants have been catalogued in the area and 1,100 of the species are found nowhere else in the world. The river is life. Yet in a nation where few people know how to swim, it is a dangerous existence for many. We were told the week before we arrived in Mbandaka, just upstream from the Disciples of Christ compound, a boat with over 60 people crashed into a dock in the dark of night and all of its passengers drowned. How many untold lives have been swallowed up by the Congo waters?
We were set back a day in our travels waiting for our rented Toyota to be repaired for the journey to Bolomba. This gave our team an opportunity to visit and interact with the people who lived along the Congo. The children were fun to play with. We enjoyed having the men show us the fish they caught and how they maintained their wooden boats called pirogues. We caught a good glimpse of the bicycle culture in Africa with people carefully washing their decorated boda boda (bicycle taxies) in the Congo River. This caught the eye of our founder of The Fuller Center Bicycle Adventure Ryan Iafigliola.
I was caught up in the swirl of love of being with our group, Leslie, Leah, Craig, Ryan, Kevin and David and the anthropological experience of being in a new land in such a beautiful place. The river village people were very welcoming. The “harbor master” alternated between taking cell phones from incoming boats and making cassava (manioc) pestles, which we learned was a staple for the Congolese.
We even had some moments of silliness. One young man walked over and saw Leah. "Elle est une belle dame!" the young man yelled from the shore. "Elle parle le Français!" another man cautioned. And immediately they all switched to speaking Lingala.
Wednesday morning we were awakened by intense but beautiful drumming around 4:30 in the morning. We were told the drumming was a traditional way of celebrating the birth of twins.
I asked Leslie to pen a poem about her experience on the river. She said her emotions were that of “Being carried to a distant shore where separation exists no more. All seemed right with the world, there by the river…Time eternal…Free…Home.”
Enjoy Leslie’s beautiful poem and pray for the people on the Congo River.
of life abundant.
The fullness of Life
love without fear.
on this River of Life
the Ocean of Existence.
Gregg Thomas, father of Leah Gernetzke, our communications/multimedia specialist, also wrote a song aptly called "River of Life," featuring several international artists. Click here to listen!
Forty-four years before the Belgians colonized the Congo in 1908, Folliot Sandford Pierpoint wrote the lyrics for what became the song “For the Beauty of the Earth.” I thought of this hymn when I saw the houses made with earth blocks in the Congo. I love earth buildings.
I was first introduced to earth block construction when a group of volunteers built a soil block dormitory for The Mountain Institute’s campus on Spruce Knob Mountain in Pendleton County, West Virgina. Using this method, we built a few houses in Pendleton County and I was hooked on the technology. Various block press machines were designed. One model designed by Jim Underwood, my late friend and mentor, is being produced in a small machine shop in China and has been used for the construction of many houses in Nepal. Craig Martindale, who serves on the Americus- Sumter Fuller Center for Housing board, journeyed to China to observe the machine in hopes of starting a micro-enterprise program that would build machines for The Fuller Center for Housing’s international partners. I also participated in research on the earth block walls at Oak Ridge National Labs in Tennessee.
But my exposure and love of compressed earth buildings is not a new concept. The oldest known earth buildings, discovered near the Yellow River in China, are from 5,000 BCE during the Neolithic period. Also, most Americans would be surprised at architect Diebedo Francis Kere’s observation that “one half of the world’s population, approximately 3 billion people on six continents, lives or works in buildings constructed of earth.”
In the Congo we witnessed a progression of wall construction. The more primitive houses were made of poll-supported thatched walls, which were filled in by mud. We could see many houses that started out with thatch walls were being filled in with earth blocks. Each village we passed on our journey from 247 Kilometer drive from Mbandaka to Bolomba had a block maker who supervised the digging of the clay subsoil, compressing the soil in wooden forms and curing them before being placed into a wall. The quality of the block laying varied some from village to village. Some of it was very impressive with crosses and diamond patterned openings for light and ventilation. In the US, it is common to brick just the street front of our houses and to use more affordable vinyl siding for the remaining walls.
In the Congolese villages we saw many houses that had a stuccoed front while the remaining walls were unfinished. The Congo houses have long thatch roof or metal overhangs, which serve to protect the walls from erosion caused by rains. Windows go unfinished until the owners can find cut lumber. Until then, they are often filled with loose soil bricks, stacked to give a sense of security from humans, monkeys and other curious critters. This is why we wanted to fund a sawmill for our Fuller Center project in Bolomba. Other technical support the Bolomba Fuller Center offers is a pneumatic press that improved the compression consistency of the block, along with stabilizers such as Portland cement, which improves the endurance of the blocks. For all of the concern for deforestation of the jungle, it is good that we are building walls with a local resource – earth, which is termite resistant, fireproof and ultimately biodegradable.
My interest in earth houses is more than just architectural or anthropological. It is theological. Enshrined in a sidewalk in Washington, D.C. is a plaque honoring Millard and Linda Fuller and it has the following quote:
We have the know-how in the world to house everyone.
We have the resources in the world to house everyone.
All that’s missing is the will to do it.
Earth houses are a gift from the Creator who so loves this world and who called it “Good.” In my work I often hear people discouraged about recession. They fear they don’t have the resources to advance our mission. But compressed earth buildings serve as a reminder and a symbol that God’s resources continue to be available to help people achieve decent housing no matter how bad the economy gets. The Fuller Center can build a house in the Congo for $2,500-$3,500. If you ever have the opportunity to visit a village in the Congo, I promise you will find both the desire and the will to help us house everyone.
I’ve asked my fellow Congo pilgrim Leslie O’Tool to pen another poem for me on the subject of earth houses. Enjoy her beautiful work weaving the relationship between God, the creation and housing.
Please pray for the Congolese people and their houses.
of all that is,
I am upheld by you alone,
unceasing is my prayer to you,
for you are my home.
Cradled in your arms,
in the formless Reality,
One, to be formed yet again,
in thy cosmic womb.
This body, this temple,
you have formed from earth,
All is provided here,
in this Garden,
I see you everywhere,
you are Nature Herself,
in your countless forms,
Your body, the Earth,
is in the bread I eat,
the wine I drink,
your sacrifice, complete.
And so too shall be mine.