(Photo: Countryside Mennonite Church — located near Waterloo, Ontario, Canada — sent 68 volunteers to work in Nicaragua in February 2014, a trip that put the Fuller Center Global Builders program over the 2,000-volunteer mark. On Feb. 15, a 65-volunteer team will leave on a Global Builders trip to work with us in La Florida, Peru.)
Most Fuller Center Global Builders teams range in size from several volunteers to nearly 20 — and the bigger the team, the greater the scope of the project they can tackle during their generally one-week-long mission trip.
Of course, the bigger the team, the more preparation and work it takes to host them. Not every Fuller Center international partner has the facilities to host a team as massive as the one Countryside Mennonite Church will send out next week numbering 65 volunteers.
Our partners in La Florida, Peru, however, are not just capable of hosting such a team — they are excited about the opportunity. Having years of building experience that has resulted in more than 100 new homes, Peru also was the first international location to host a Millard Fuller Legacy Build, which brought dozens of volunteers to La Florida in 2012 — even though that was not technically a Global Builders trip.
Fuller Center Global Builders Coordinator Ian Burkes says that the key to Peru’s ability to get houses built and provide excellent volunteer experiences is a matter of outstanding local leadership — specifically the leadership of Zenon Colque, a friend of the Fullers and part of this affordable housing movement for four decades. He witnessed Colque and the Fuller Center of Peru’s in action in November 2018 after visiting the location shortly after joining The Fuller Center staff.
“That experience and my year and a half since of working with them has left me consistently impressed,” Burkes said. “The key to Peru’s success and the reason they’re able to host such a large group is the superb leadership of Zenon and his staff. They have great relationships in the community, years of experience, and boundless enthusiasm for hosting teams and serving the people of Peru.
“When we accept a new international covenant partner, the No. 1 thing we look for is capable local leadership. Without that, the project has little chance of success,” he added. “But when you find someone connected to the community — capable of balancing the logistics and excited about working with volunteers — you have all the building blocks you need to make a real impact. With Zenon, we’ve found all that and more.”
Countryside: Trip brings people together
While Peru is experienced with hosting such a large volunteer team, Countryside Mennonite Church has experience with sending such a team. In fact, the team they sent through the Global Builders program to work in Las Peñitas, Nicaragua, in 2014 included 68 volunteers.
“The Nicaragua trip was an outstanding experience for all of us,” said Rick Weber, Countryside’s youth pastor. “The Fuller Center was well-organized with work projects, building materials, lodging, food and transportation.”
“We were so grateful for all The Fuller Center did to accommodate our large group in Las Peñitas,” added Emily Lichty, one of Countryside’s organizers on this Peru trip and a volunteer on the 2014 Nicaragua trip. “It felt very well-organized and was a great experience for our group.”
One of the biggest benefits for groups who go on Fuller Center Global Builders trips — or U.S. Builders trips for that matter — is that it is a team-building opportunity. Even a large team of more than 60 people can build bonds and teamwork, Lichty and Weber said.
“Ten days of traveling, working and helping others together in a new culture — and supporting stingray bite victims — was definitely a team-building and group bonding experience as evidenced by the extended reminiscing and many shared stories,” Weber said of the previous Nicaragua trip.
“As a youth group, we know each other quite well through our weekly youth events, but traveling and living with the same people for a week — no matter the size of the group — forces you to get to know each other better,” Lichty said. “Working for a common goal like building homes for those in need brings people together in a way unlike any other. We found our time in Nicaragua to be very unifying for our group, and the memories from that trip still get shared today.
“We are definitely looking forward to experiencing Peru and are grateful for all Ian, Zenon and (Fuller Center Registrar) Stacey (Goolsby) have put into making this trip possible,” she added.
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