After Ryan Iafigliola, Fuller Center Director of International Field Operations, handed the keys to the first Fuller Center homeowner in Sierra Leone, she joyfully entered the new house.
The language she used wasn’t one he understood–apart from two phrases.
"Bye, bye, water!" she exclaimed as she waved to the safe and secure walls, floor and roof. And, he said, he’d learned tenki–a word she used repeatedly–meant "thank you."
Iafigliola was in Sierra Leone during his recent two-week trip visiting Fuller Center projects there and in Nigeria. Watch a video from his trip.
"Although I was well aware of statistics about the need, seeing the dire conditions firsthand and meeting the families was still a shock to my system. We can do more – we must do more. We have the right people in place on the ground, but we have a crucial need for more support, particularly financial, from their Christian brothers and sisters in the U.S. and Canada," Iafigliola said.
Here’s an update from the projects…
Nigeria is suffering a housing shortage of an estimated 16 million homes (source). As a result, finding affordable housing is a challenge, and the poor are impacted most of all.
The Fuller Center of Nigeria is addressing this issue under the direction of Samuel Odia. He created a unique incremental housing model which allows homeowners to graduate from smaller units to increasingly larger ones as they pay off their interest-free loans. (Read more about the system here.)
In Nigeria, Iafigliola visited with homeowners and checked on the progress of building taking place in a village just outside of Abuja, called Luvu. He also attended the Fuller Center Nigeria’s board meeting.
He said, "The entire board and staff has been working tirelessly and self-sacrificially to make this possible, and they are committed to seeing the work expand exponentially. In Nigeria, we have that opportunity."
The Fuller Center of Nigeria reached a milestone of 50 homes last year and continues to build new homes as funds are available. Each new unit costs only $3,500 to complete; $14,000 for each 4-plex.
As a result of a civil war that ended just nine years ago, houses in Sierra Leone are incredibly overcrowded and often consist of little more than a tarpaulin.
Since the end of the war, very little has been done to bring affordable housing to Sierra Leone and relatively few non-profit organizations are at work there. Isabel Johnston knew she couldn’t sit back and watch this problem without trying to help. Johnston returned to her home in Sierra Leone after serving for many years as director of Habitat for Humanity Uganda.
"The 11-year rebel war had just ended, I empathised with so many people who had lost homes, property and loved ones. The plight of those living in poverty homes or homelessly had worsened," Johnston said. "The need is extremely urgent especially after the season when heavy rains wash away mud huts."
Iafigliola saw the effects of the war–and the desperate need for housing–firsthand.
"The living conditions are, in a word, tragic. People are living in tents, tarps, houses of mud. Sanitation is minimal," Iafigliola said. "The conditions are perhaps similar to what we found in Haiti following the earthquake, but here it is seemingly permanent–and worse, the people are forgotten."
With the support of the Fuller Center, she was able to launch a covenant partner and just completed the first home. The work has attracted the attention and praise of some of the nation’s top officials, including the President, and the Fuller Center has been granted 10 acres of land to continue the work. Because of the large family size, houses are slightly larger than in Nigeria but still cost only $5,000 each.
HELP SPONSOR A HOUSE IN NIGERIA – $3,500
HELP SPONSOR A HOUSE IN SIERRA LEONE – $5,000
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