The Sunday Youth Group of Parkville Presbyterian Church will help build a home for a Nepalese family impacted by the devastating April earthquake that damaged or destroyed tens of thousands of homes. But they won’t be traveling very far.
In fact, their “trip” won’t even leave Parkville, Missouri.
The Fuller Center for Housing’s Global Builders program sends teams of volunteers to such countries as Nepal, Haiti, Nicaragua, Armenia, Peru and others to work alongside families and local laborers in the construction of simple, decent homes.
But there is an option for those who may not be able to find the time or money to fit such a trip into their schedule — virtual participation. The Fuller Center Bicycle Adventure has long had the option for cyclists to participate in the Adventure as virtual riders who can contribute without actually pedaling across America. Now, those who want to help build homes have a similar option.
“Traveling isn’t for everyone,” Fuller Center Director of International Field Operations Ryan Iafigliola said. “And going to a place like Nepal can be especially grueling and expensive. Virtual participants make a difference even without making the trip, and we connect them to a real team so they can see where their money is going and practically taste Nepal.”
Parkville’s virtual Global Builders trip is the result of the church’s concern for families impacted by the April earthquake. That’s when pastor the Rev. Steve Andrews got a copy of The Fuller Center’s biannual newsletter in the mail. The newsletter featured a story about how 11 Fuller Center homes just 30 miles from the quake’s epicenter were unscathed — success that prompted a mission to build 200 new Fuller Center homes in the area.
“Virtual participants make a difference even without making the trip, and we connect them to a real team so they can see where their money is going and practically taste Nepal.” — Ryan Iafigliola
“He was very impressed that and shared that with the kids, who were also very impressed with that and decided that they wanted to help raise money for The Fuller Center’s work in Nepal,” said Graham Houston, the president of the local Fuller Center of Greater Kansas City, Missouri. The church was well aware of The Fuller Center’s work locally but wanted to learn more about the international work and the overall ministry. Houston was happy to share.
The youth group embraced the concept of taking a virtual Global Builders trip and is in the midst of a $3,000 fundraising campaign to make it happen. They are virtually “joining” the April 2-15 Global Builder trip to Nepal by a group from Frederick Church of the Brethren of Frederick, Maryland. Houston said that being tied to an actual trip makes the effort more tangible.
“By connecting with a specific trip, the kids could actually look forward to seeing pictures and participating in the communication with the people that they’re working with in Nepal,” he said. “They can say, ‘That’s the house we helped build.’ We’re just trying to make it as concrete as possible for the kids so that they really feel connected to the work. We want the kids to really be locked in on it.”
Houston also has been a big supporter of and participant in the Fuller Center Bicycle Adventure, which has a virtual rider component. He would like to see that option grow, as well as the Global Builders’ virtual participant option.
“I like the virtual participant idea,” Houston said. “I’d like to grab that idea by the horns and make it bear fruit. Would like to set an example for how this can work.”
Both he and Iafigliola hope the group’s virtual experience will inspire more to follow.
“We’re super excited about having not just one virtual volunteer but an entire virtual team,” Iafigliola said. “I hope this virtual team’s success sets the stage for many more.”