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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