A team of students from Mercer University is making history as The Fuller Center for Housing’s first-ever Global Builders team to work with its international covenant partner in India.
Members of the highly selective Mercer Service Scholars are spending two weeks working on three different projects with the Trivandrum Fuller Center, located in the state of Kerala, deemed one of the “Ten Paradises of the World” by National Geographic Traveler. With its lush tropical forests and beautiful beaches, Kerala is indeed paradise. Yet, it is beset by substandard housing and slums, as is much of India, which has 17 percent of the world’s slum dwellers.
In addition to helping build three new homes, the Service Scholars also are experiencing the culture and learning from local leaders, including the director of the Trivandrum Fuller Center, T.H. Lawrence, who said the team is off to a wonderful start.
Dr. Chris Grant, who leads the Mercer Service Scholars program, said in an email from Kerala that the group has received “an absolutely amazing welcome.”
“Mr. Lawrence has been such a wonderful host and a real resource at helping to facilitate our class objectives,” Grant continued in the email. “He has provided local lecturers and scheduled visits to schools and other institutions that we feel terrific about the progress in meeting our learning objectives. … We have enjoyed an immensely successful start to our program here from our point of view.”
The students are providing unique insight into this groundbreaking Global Builders trip by maintaining a blog about their experiences in India. (Click here to visit the blog.) Fuller Center Director of Communications Chris Johnson said the students’ reporting helps shed light on an exotic part of the world and encourages future trips to experience a place where paradise and poverty collide.
“We are able to tell people about what to expect as far as the actual building experience and accommodations and such,” Johnson said. “But these students are offering insight into the people, the food, the traffic, the beaches and everything else people may encounter in a place like Kerala, such as a cow wandering into the backyard. And because they’re intelligent, creative and tech-savvy, the Service Scholars’ blogging is fascinating even for those who’d rather just visit paradise from their computer or mobile phone. They are painting a wonderful picture.”
He noted the following excerpt from a recent blog post by Kelsey Jones: “We have discovered the hospitable people that neighbor our homeowner, the kinds of people that bring you fresh masala (think fried flour that tastes like potato chips=YUM) and coconut milk (straight out of the coconut no less). We absolutely love the people and the children around us, and we often use our break time to take pictures with them and share a few pieces of candy. Those kinds of connections have made us feel so welcome and at home, even when we are on a different continent and in a different time zone than we are accustomed to.”
The Mercer group will return to Georgia on Aug. 6. The Fuller Center’s next scheduled trip to India will be Feb. 9-23, 2013, but the nonprofit ecumenical Christian housing ministry based in Americus, Ga., hopes that more will be scheduled to visit the new destination. The ministry’s first-ever Global Builders trip to Nepal is set for Oct. 14-20.
The Fuller Center for Housing’s Global Builders program has expanded its reach this year by adding such destinations as Nepal, Sri Lanka, India, Senegal and Nicaragua to already popular options such as Armenia, Haiti, Peru and El Salvador. For a complete list of upcoming trips, please visit the Global Builders Upcoming Trips page at FullerCenter.org.