On Feb. 7, we reported that The Fuller Center’s largest-ever Global Builders team — 68 people from Countryside Mennonite Fellowship near Waterloo, Ontario — was bound for Nicaragua with our 2,000th all-time Global Builders volunteer included.
Today, Global Builders coordinator Allen Slabaugh reports that the trip was a huge success. He accompanied the team to the poverty-stricken fishing village of Las Penitas for last week’s work.
“They all really enjoyed the experience,” said Slabaugh, who returned with a slew of photos. (Click here to see the pictures.) “They were all impressed with how organized the group down there is and how much work there was to do. There was plenty of work — they worked on anywhere from eight to 12 houses throughout the week. They were kept busy. The construction supervisor there was really impressed with how quickly they were getting work done, which was great to see. They were a very hard-working group and had a lot of skilled volunteers, as well.”
“It was absolutely incredible,” said Meghan Jantzi, one of the leaders from the Countryside Mennonite Fellowship youth group. “I was blown away by how smoothly everything went, and I know that has a lot to do with all of the planning The Fuller Center did. It was amazing. We really can’t imagine how it could be more of a success than it was. Everything went so well. If we do something like this again, I’m quite sure we’ll be going with The Fuller Center again. I think that was the best decision we made.”
Slabaugh said that having such a big group come down to work did more than build houses; it made the surrounding community realize that was started as a promising project is becoming a real, tangible success as their neighbors move into safe, decent housing.
“Having that many people coming down to the community really brought more awareness to what The Fuller Center is doing in the area,” he said. “A lot of people living in that village are interested in how they can become part of this program. It opened a few more doors.”
Though the first Global Builders trip to Nicaragua occurred just a year ago, The Fuller Center’s work in the community is booming, and volunteers are eager to sign up for trips to Las Penitas.
“It already is starting to become a hotbed for Global Builders teams,” Slabaugh said. “We’ve had four or five groups go down already and two more scheduled in March, three or four in the fall, and I imagine we’ll have more by December and the winter. It’s a close location, a great project with great work going on, they keep people busy, and it’s right on the beach.”
While the coastal location is indeed a Pacific paradise, Slabaugh said it’s the people who live in the area who cause volunteers to fall in love with the place.
“The people are great, extremely friendly,” he said. “The little village we work in is wonderful. Everybody you meet there smiles and waves with a ‘hello’ or ‘hola’. And the local Fuller Center covenant partner down there is very well run. They are very driven and motivated to bring about change. They have big ideas and big dreams, which is great to see.”
“It was beautiful,” Jantzi said. “There was a lot of poverty, and to see that and, yet, the beauty of the people being content with what they had just kind of added to it. The people were very open and very friendly. One thing that really struck us was just how content they were with what they had. But by our standards, we wouldn’t think they had much at all. But they were just so grateful for the houses that we were building. To us, we wouldn’t have thought it was much at all. But to them it was everything.”