LEGACY BUILD 2018: International leaders enhance perspective by volunteering in U.S.

LEGACY BUILD 2018: International leaders enhance perspective by volunteering in U.S.

(Photo: Haiti’s Geral Joseph with Peru’s Vitaliano Enriquez)

Volunteers with the Fuller Center’s Global Builders program have contributed greatly to the home-building efforts in countries around the world — including such places as Haiti, Peru and Nicaragua. Representatives of those three Fuller Center for Housing international partners are in Americus, Georgia, this week helping Americans build homes for a change.

Geral Joseph, who has done an outstanding job leading The Fuller Center’s work in Pigñon, Haiti, is enjoying a week of not being the boss as a volunteer at the 2018 Millard Fuller Legacy Build.

“I’m very happy to come and see how the volunteers feel when they come down to Haiti.” Joseph said. “It’s the first time that I’m volunteering to build a house. It’s like giving something back to the American people because mostly they are coming down to help the Haitians. I think it’s my time to come help build a house.

“It’s very different,” he added, “but I wanted to feel like someone who comes to help as a volunteer. I think this will help me change a lot things because I’m coming to learn, too.”

Jose Santos

One thing Joseph learned is that it can get cold in Americus in April as the workday started with temperatures around 40 degrees. Jose Santos Rodriguez, who helps lead The Fuller Center’s work in Nicaragua could feel Joseph’s pain and then some.

“I’m freezing to death,” said Santos, whose first visit to the United states, first plane ride and first trip out of Nicaragua was last April at the Higher Ground on the Bayou blitz build in Hammond, Louisiana. He was happy to return to the United States for another round of build — and he was even happier when the sun began to warm the job site by the time lunch rolled around.

“At the beginning, it was hard, but it’s getting nicer,” he said of the weather, adding that he is happy to return the favor after hundreds of Americans have come to help his homeland. “The Americans have helped a lot to build our community.”

It also is a practical learning experience.

“This is very different than building in Nicaragua because we build with blocks and concrete,” he said. “Here, you use a lot of wood, so I’m learning a lot. It’s also important because you learn how to work together, as brothers and friends. You show us how to work as friends and brothers and improve the community.”

Zenon Colque

Zenon Colque’s relationship with Millard and Linda Fuller goes back to the early 1980s, and he now leads The Fuller Center’s work in Peru. His last Legacy Build volunteer experience was in 2011 in Minden, Louisiana. This time, he brought along a Peruvian colleague, Vitaliano Enriquez, who handles accounting for the covenant partner in Peru.

“I came to work in the U.S. to understand the feeling when Americans go to other countries, what they need when they go to foreign countries and know whether we are prepared in Peru for them,” Colque said. “This is just the first day, but I’m sure that in a week I will understand better. When we receive groups from America and other countries, we will be much better prepared.”

Colque’s experience with Millard and Linda Fuller’s affordable housing ministry dates back to the early 1980s, and he has spent much time in the United States. While he speaks English well, Enriquez knows almost no English but is finding that it is not a huge barrier on the job site.

“It’s very satisfying for me to do this kind of work — it’s not my everyday job,” Enriquez said through Colque, who is serving as his interpreter for the week. “It may not be easy, but there are ways to communicate with others using the hands and the face.”

By the time these Legacy Build homes are dedicated at 4 p.m. Friday, they will be joined by leaders from The Fuller Center’s new partner in Puerto Rico and our leadership from El Salvador.

View a photo gallery from Monday’s action at the 2018 Millard Fuller Legacy Build.

LEGACY BUILD 2018: From homeless to homeowner — “When God is all you got, God is all you need”

LEGACY BUILD 2018: From homeless to homeowner — “When God is all you got, God is all you need”

(Photo: Taneka Miles, 33, — center, with her two older daughters Jasiauna and Tykeria — is one of the homeowner partners for the 2018 Millard Fuller Legacy Build in Americus, Georgia.)

When Millard Fuller Legacy Build volunteers wrap up each day of working alongside Taneka Miles in building a new home for her and her seven daughters the week of April 15-20 in Americus, Georgia, most will head back to their hotel rooms or volunteer lodging to wind down and relax in order to be ready to start working again the next morning.

Miles, however, will not be getting much down time during the week. When her day ends on the job site, it will be time for her to report to her night job at PharmaCentra. It will be a long week but well worth it for the 33-year-old mother of seven daughters who became homeless when she and her husband separated in March of last year.

When she recalls the pain of her family falling apart and losing their rented home, the tears flow. When she thinks of how her daughters will soon have a decent home thanks to the Millard Fuller Legacy Build and Fuller Center for Housing volunteers and supporters, the tears flow again.

“I’m just blessed,” she says. “I don’t know why. I don’t know how. I just feel very blessed. There’s nothing I’ve done so spectacular in my life. I’m just blessed. Thank you from the bottom of my heart because it could have been anybody. I’m grateful. I’m humble and I am grateful.”

She may be humble and grateful now, but she spent most of the past year terrified. After the separation, they stayed briefly with a friend. But adding eight people to a home environment is tenuous at best. When bed bugs became a problem in that home, Miles slept in the car with one of her daughters who suffers from asthma.

After that, she stayed briefly with a cousin, then in a dilapidated trailer just outside of Americus. The landlord refused to make repairs without going up on rent Miles already could not afford. Soon, she was on the streets again.

“People don’t know how many times I had to sit there and close my door to just pray and cry to God for help, for strength,” Miles says. “I’m trying to be strong for these kids who are looking at me to be strong for them when sometimes I don’t know whether I’m going or coming, not knowing how I’m going to pay bills and trying to keep them from worrying about it.”

Finally, her bishop and a deacon’s wife at Friendship Missionary Baptist Church got her in touch with Evangelist Snipes of the Sumter Area Ministerial Association.

SAMA had been helping the area’s homeless find temporary places to stay for years, but Snipes felt more needed to be done. She and Kirk Lyman-Barner of the Americus-Sumter Fuller Center for Housing (this year’s Legacy Build hosts) created a new nonprofit — Americus-Sumter Transitional Housing Ministries — through which the homeless are able to apply for lodging and are then given a mentor. The mentor helps them as they work to get a job, manage an income and handle any personal problems they may be battling.

Going to Transitional Housing Ministries would wind up being a blessing that helped her get back on her feet, find temporary housing and will soon see her as its first major success story — a story that comes to a crescendo on April 20 when their new Fuller Center house is dedicated. However, Miles remembers going to the organization for help as her lowest point.

“I just didn’t want a handout,” she says with tears now streaming down both cheeks. “I want to do it myself because I’m looking at my children depending on me. I had them kids. I didn’t want no help to do it for my children because they’re mine. So it was hard asking for help. I didn’t want a handout. I wanted to do it myself. I just wanted to do it myself.”

Fortunately, this new home will not be a handout. All new Fuller Center for Housing homes are built in partnership with families. The families repay the costs of the home build, on terms they can afford to pay, with no interest charged and no profit made. Those repayments go into a Fund for Humanity to help others in the local community get the same hand-up. Therefore, not only will the Miles family own their home with payments far less than they would pay for a substandard rental unit, but their repayments make them givers themselves. This is enlightened charity, not a handout. It is a true partnership.

“I tell my kids all the time that we are blessed, and you’ve got to keep God first,” Miles says. “That’s the only way I got through. I would tell my kids, ‘When God is all you got, God is all you need.’ They see it now. We are blessed.”

Local volunteers, supporters and donors are still needed for the 2018 Millard Fuller Legacy Build. To learn more, please click here.

Completion of 66 homes in Bolivian village of Mizque strikes blow against Chagas disease

Completion of 66 homes in Bolivian village of Mizque strikes blow against Chagas disease

(Photo: Ana, 7, and her family are among the 66 new Fuller Center homeowner partner families now protected from Chagas in Mizque, Bolivia.)

Having a simple, decent house is about more than solid walls and roofs that keep the elements out of living quarters. The family is the basic building block of a society, and it is in the home that families are nurtured and grow.

Studies verify the common-sense expectation that communities filled with simple, decent homes have lower crime rates and higher economic success. In these homes, children are happier and do better in school, while the entire family is more likely to have better health outcomes.

Adequate housing’s impact on health is evident across the United States and worldwide, but the evidence is most clear and stark in third-world countries where poverty housing and health problems are rampant. One of the clearest examples of how simple, decent homes can transform the health outcomes of a community can be seen in the Bolivian village of Mizque, where The Fuller Center for Housing is now wrapping up the final three homes of a 66-home, yearlong project.

For decades, Mizque families have been attacked by a vicious parasite that festers in the walls of mud, straw and adobe huts. The parasite bites people as they sleep and lays its eggs in the lips and around the mouths of humans. That gives it the nickname “the kissing bug,” but its kiss is vicious. After their parasitic offspring moves into the bloodstream, they can cause Chagas disease. About 60 percent of victims experience fever, swelling and headaches before getting over the infection in about three months. For the remaining 40 percent, Chagas can persist for 10 to 30 years and cause serious heart problems, including heart failure. About 8,000 people die every year from Chagas.

Elena and Dario with their three children outside their old adobe home

In Mizque, however, the solid walls of new Fuller Center for Housing homes do not permit the parasite to live and breed. The walls, roofs, windows and doors protect grateful families and give them hope for a happier, healthier future. Parents like Elena and Dario — the parents of three children, including 7-year-old Ana (pictured above) — no longer have to raise their children on the dirt floor of an adobe shack.

It is a project funded through the Fuller Center and built by the families and local laborers. While many of The Fuller Center’s success stories around the world have been greatly impacted by the dedicated efforts of Fuller Center Global Builders volunteers — including another location in Bolivia — Mizque was simply too difficult a trip to facilitate. The village truly had to build this better life on their own. The way they have seized this hand-up makes this Mizque village stand as an example for others throughout poor areas of South and Central America where Chagas persists.

“Working in the remote areas of Mizque was a great challenge for our team in Bolivia, but one that will be reaping rewards for these families for decades to come,” said Fuller Center Director of International Field Operations Ryan Iafiglioa, who was able to visit the village a couple of years ago at the beginning of the project. “Even more so than in our typical locations, moving from a simple mud house that attracts insects that carry Chagas disease to a healthy, attractive home is going to change each family’s lives. We thank God that we were able to be part of the transformation.”

“The mission of The Fuller Center calls us to serve the poor wherever they are found — and we had to look hard to find them in Mizque!” Fuller Center President David Snell said. “This is one of the more remote areas in which we’ve worked — and one of the most rewarding. Helping these families move from shacks into decent, hygienic homes has been joyful. What a blessing it is to so profoundly improve the lives of God’s people in need! Thank God for sending the generous supporters who made this possible.”

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PHOTO GALLERY: From huts and shacks to simple, decent homes in Mizque, Bolivia:

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United Church of Christ meets 50-home goal in Nepal earthquake recovery effort

United Church of Christ meets 50-home goal in Nepal earthquake recovery effort

The United Church of Christ has been one of the biggest supporters of The Fuller Center for Housing’s earthquake recovery in both Haiti and Nepal. UCC Disaster Ministries has contributed $200,000 to The Fuller Center’s work in Nepal, resulting in the construction of 50 earthquake-resistant houses.

“We partnered with them because they had already been working in Nepal pre-earthquake and I knew we could couple their development expertise with our disaster expertise, in true partnership, to do something amazing,” UCC Disaster Ministries Executive Zach Wolgemuth said in a detailed online report from the United Church of Christ about Nepal recovery efforts through The Fuller Center.

Read the complete UCC article

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Take a look at some of the most recently completed homes funded by the UCC:

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Fuller Center to begin work in one of Puerto Rico’s hardest-hit areas — and you can help

Fuller Center to begin work in one of Puerto Rico’s hardest-hit areas — and you can help

Though it was more than six months ago that Hurricane Maria bashed Puerto Rico as a strong Category 4 storm, many parts of the island look like they were just struck yesterday. More than 100,000 residents remain without electricity.

One of the hardest-hit areas was the southeastern portion of the island, across the mid-island mountains from bustling San Juan. It is here that The Fuller Center for Housing will begin sending its first Global Builders volunteer teams to work in long-term recovery and rebuilding efforts.

Specifically, volunteers will be staying in the small community of Calzada, which is composed of 184 families just on the outskirts of the city of Maunabo, which has about 15,000 residents. Volunteers will be working in Calzada and its surrounding area. It is a secluded region, nestled between the inland mountains and the blue-green sea whose waves roll upon strikingly beautiful beaches. Because of its secluded location, however, it also is expected to be among the last places on the island to have its electricity restored.

“The area where we’re working seems like a lovely small town community — except that it was one of the hardest-hit areas from the storms and still doesn’t have power,” said Fuller Center Director of International Field Operations Ryan Iafigliola, who visited the area in February. “They know what needs to be done, but they need help.”

The red marker denotes Calzada on the southeastern corner of Puerto Rico.

The Fuller Center does not parachute into areas of need and decide how to help. Instead, the nonprofit housing ministry works through local partners — whether that happens to be in a U.S. mainland city, a third-world country or a disaster zone. The Fuller Center’s success in Haiti following the 2010 earthquake can be greatly attributed to working through local partners on the ground. In Calzada, leaders say the need is for repairs and rebuilding in an area that was poverty-stricken even before Hurricane Maria. Blue tarps now serve as roofs for many of the homes.

“The way that we work is truly different from anyone else out there,” Iafigliola said. “We don’t send in our ‘man with a plan,’ we identify local leaders who want to do this type of work and help them to be successful at it. It’s very grassroots.”

The community of Calzada, Puerto Rico

When The Fuller Center announced last year that it would be looking for partners who would be able to host volunteers and put them to work, many people responded that they wanted to be among the first to volunteer on the island. Many of those people already are organizing teams and planning trips, which will be listed soon on The Fuller Center’s Global Builders Upcoming Trips page.

If you would like to know more about The Fuller Center’s plans for working in Puerto Rico, please visit our new Puerto Rico webpage here. You will find descriptions of the area, as well as information about what Global Builders trips there will be like and how you can express interest in joining or leading a work trip to Calzada. If you would like to donate to our work in Puerto Rico, please click here to give.

VIDEO: A look at the town of Maunabo, filmed two months after Hurricane Maria:

Pennsylvania church sees September project resurrected at groundbreaking in Louisiana

Pennsylvania church sees September project resurrected at groundbreaking in Louisiana

Many Fuller Center for Housing new home builds have gotten a huge head start thanks to CrossRoads Missions and enthusiastic volunteers from churches across the nation.

CrossRoads sends lumber packages to churches, who often put dozens of volunteers to work on their grounds assembling walls that will be stood up and placed in the shape of a house. The entire process usually takes a day or two and makes for a tangible way for church members to put faith into action over a weekend.

Volunteers often inscribe CrossRoads walls with inspirational messages and Bible verses.

The walls are then trucked to Fuller Center covenant partner sites to be raised at new home builds. It not only reduces the cost of a new home build — thus lowering the homeowner partner’s zero-percent-interest, no-profit-made mortgage payments — but it also speeds up the process of building new homes. Unfortunately, these church members rarely see the walls reassembled on the first day of the actual build.

However, a team from St. Luke Lutheran Church of Cabot, Pennsylvania, did get to see the resurrection of their CrossRoads Missions project today at the groundbreaking for a new home in Hammond, Louisiana — more than 900 miles away and nearly six months later. They just happened to be on a mission trip only 40 miles away and were able to attend the Ginger Ford Northshore Fuller Center for Housing’s groundbreaking today for a home that will be owned by Chanta Bryant, who has two sons, one a senior in high school who will begin studying pre-med at Millsaps College in the fall and the other a fifth-grader.

“This was the first time we have ever had representatives from all the volunteer components together for a groundbreaking ceremony,” said Tamara Danel, Ginger Ford Northshore’s Executive Director. “Who would have ever thought that the volunteers from Pennsylvania who built the frame in their church parking lot would get to meet the family who will live in it and the volunteers who will complete it?” 

Quad Area Youth Build students and staff will complete the construction of the house.

Below are some scenes from St. Luke’s September CrossRoads Missions wall package assembly:

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College student: Time is indeed precious, and helping others is a great way to spend it

College student: Time is indeed precious, and helping others is a great way to spend it

Last week, 35 college students from Springfield, Ohio’s Wittenberg University fanned out across four communities in Georgia during their spring breaks to help families in need through The Fuller Center for Housing.

Students tackled projects in Atlanta, Macon, Albany and Perry and then paid a visit to The Fuller Center’s international headquarters in Americus, where they heard about the ministry from both co-founder Linda Fuller and President David Snell.

Kenzie Hill, who was the student leader for the entire group and spent the week working in Perry, was particularly struck by something President Snell told the group. She shared her reflections on social media and has graciously allowed us to share with you, as well.


“You can donate money, but this is something which can be replenished. When you donate your time, this is something you can never get back which is what makes volunteers so valuable. They are giving up their time for this cause.”  — David Snell, President of Fuller Center for Housing

This statement has really stuck with me. People constantly say we are giving up our Spring Break of the traditional beach vacation to work on these projects. As David Snell mentioned, time is a precious thing that can never be replaced, so the word why gets thrown around quite frequently regarding our choice. Well, to me, the question should be why wouldn’t you?

When you use your time this way, the perspective of all involved can be shifted. This work brings so many types of people together, opening the door for ample learning opportunities.

When you use your time in this way, the concern will not be about getting the time back to use in a different way; you will want it back so you can relive the moments. Find something you are passionate about and jump in feet first. I promise you will not waste a single second of your life.

All the work you put in will be worth it, and after watching these trips come together over the past year, I can attest to this. I cannot wait to go through the process for next year’s trips. Thank you Perry for an amazing past two years that have made me want to continue!

Wittenberg University’s Kenzie Hill is one of the students WMAZ-TV interviewed during last week’s alternative spring break service trip to Perry, Georgia:

TV REPORT: Disaster ReBuilders, volunteers continue to provide hope 6 months after Harvey

TV REPORT: Disaster ReBuilders, volunteers continue to provide hope 6 months after Harvey

You might not hear many people talking about Hurricane Harvey these days, but more than six months after the devastating flooding that hit East Texas many residents are still picking up the pieces of their lives. Groups like the Fuller Center Disaster ReBuilders and the many teams of volunteers who make their work possible are supporting families in their long-term recovery efforts and keeping hope alive in the region. KRIV-TV, Houston’s Fox 26, has this report on The Fuller Center’s continuing work in the area.

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