Billy Ponko – Beginning the Fuller Center journey in Haiti

Billy Ponko, Director of Haiti Field Operations for The Fuller Center, arrived in Haiti this week to assess and prepare the way for building. His journey began in California with Fuller Center partner, Lazarian World Homes, to be trained with the building style to be implemented in Haiti. Here are some of his reflections from the project so far.

March 24 – Still at home

I am looking to this to be the start of something. As I set forth on this new adventure moving to Haiti, striving to leave a mark with The Fuller Center for Housing, in search of making a difference and leaving behind something special in my wake–I wonder if it will be enough? Will the obstacles be too great? I just don’t know.

A "movement" is messy! A "movement" is what we are calling this build. Someone other than I coined the term and the definition, but I am taking it on my journey. For me the purity of the definition removes all stresses and worries of what lies ahead. At times, and I know there will be some, when things get hard, tough, dirty, lonely, confusing and sweaty–it is the mess of a movement I will have to lean on. Because it’s at those times that I realize I can wash the mess away. But others, like the Haitians that I am there to help, can’t. And that’s when I’ll have to dig deep and keep on going. Keep on with the cause. Keep on with the building.

Because the hard work, and the time, and the building, and the sweating, at the end of the day creates a new home! What are we as a society if we don’t have a home to provide?

April 2 – Temecula, Calif.

Two hours and about three stops signs after leaving San Diego, I was dumbfounded when I came to a stoplight, Best Buy, and CVS. I was in Temecula. A town in the middle of nowhere, but in between L.A. and San Diego.

The next three days flew by. Hard work always does that.

The youth group from "Young Life" was full of eager and hardworking kids ready to tackle the project whereever they were needed. Chad and Ken from Lazarian World Homes led the crew and others fell into their places working in small groups with big tasks.

The first day we had half the foam up and a quarter of the concrete in place. The second day we finished out the first flight of interior wall concrete. The third day was the bear. I found myself most of the day between two concrete mixers and piles of concrete bags. I thought Thursday morning would come around I would have to call the front desk to pry me out of bed after all the lifting the previous day.

I was constantly motivated by the others around me. A group of strangers working towards a common goal. It is even more inspiring to look forward to the opportunity to work with the families in Haiti. To work with the people that have so much to gain personally. To work to provide such a basic element for one’s family.

April 5 – Port-au-Prince, Haiti

After an hour searching the hanger for my luggage, I finally gave up and met Frank [Purvis, working in Haiti with Billy]. Frank arrived with all his belongings from Georgia. We joined up with our new partners and friends Gerson and Heather, who founded Growing Hope for Haiti. They demonstrated the great skills required to navigate the roads of Haiti.

The city streets are a series of pure chaos, from the pedestrians along them in front of smashed and crumbling bulidings,
to the traffic paterns that resemble a pure contradiction of the Three Musketeers: "all for none, and one for themselves."

April 6 – Leogane, Haiti

I have received a few loner T-shirts to keep me going. But shirts are the least of my worries.

We started out the morning down at a River Valley near Leogane. We were on the hunt for sand and gravel or rock to make concrete. What we found was very far from our American ways. To get sand they just dig out portions of the river bed, which is a combination of rock, small gravel, and sand mixed with some organics. If you dig deep enough you get better sand. The river rocks are large and round, think softball. There are men along the river bottom and lip sitting on large piles of this large stone with ball pine hammers. They sit there all day and smash rock. We have been told they can fill a 4-6 yard truck in 4-15 days for about $40-65.

The next visit was up into the mountain hills overlooking the coast line to check out the other source of sand. These quarries looked more like landslides, but had been all excavated by hand. The white and really red sandy material is mixed with a sharp small gravel pieces and sand that more resembles talcum powder. We have been told repeatedly how much they use the mountain “sand,” because it requires less water and cement. Thus the problem at hand: buildings fall down.

We were able to measure a very promising site working with Gerson and Heather. It measured 350 x 375 feet.

April 7 – Leogane, Haiti

Still no luggage.

Frank and I are planning to return to Port-au-Prince tomorrow to investigate some things around there and meet with some friendly partners.

Traveling through Haiti can be expensive. There are cheap pick-up trucks painted like piñatas with cabs over the bed and benches hanging out the backs. These local “buses” (and the term is used lightly), stop anytime they want–in the middle of the road or along it, no difference. A rented car and driver and costs about $130 per day. So that’s very expensive for us. Ideally when things get started we won’t have this kind of expense that often.

We just keep going, because all in all things are okay.

Visit Billy’s personal blog here to read it in its entirety.

Consider helping sponsor a modest $3,000 home in Haiti. Click here to donate.

Learn more and stay up to date with the Haiti project on our HAITI PAGE.

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