There is only one problem with marking a milestone such as having built 100 Fuller Center houses in Haiti — the work is growing so quickly that the house count of 98 just last month will jump to 110 when a duplex is dedicated this Friday at the culmination of a Global Builders trip co-led by veteran leaders Kaye Hooker and Joe McBride.
So, as much as The Fuller Center would like to mark the 100-house milestone, we will have to settle for marking a 110-house milestone instead. But those are the kinds of things that happen when support begins to swell — as it did this summer, especially with the help of a $50,000 grant from the United Church of Christ, one of our many partners helping to rebuild Haiti.
The Fuller Center duplex that will be dedicated Friday in the Lambi community will bring the total of homes built there to 42, matching the 42 that have been built in the Croix-des-Bouquets area. Another 26 were built in various locations in the period immediately after the devastating 2010 earthquake that leveled about 200,000 homes.
“Given the challenges we’ve faced working in this impoverished environment, this is a great achievement,” Fuller Center President David Snell said. “These are true houses — not starter or temporary homes — built to resist earthquakes and hurricane winds, homes that our partner families can live in for many years in comfort and with pride.
“There have been many partners in this work,” Snell added. “This is partnership in action, serving God’s people in need.”
Fuller Center Director of International Field Operations Ryan Iafigliola echoed the sentiment.
“When I think about the number of people who have helped it’s almost overwhelming,” Iafigliola said. “We have the dedicated hundreds of Global Builders volunteers and especially the trip leaders, who give their hands and hearts. We have organizations like Homes from the Heart and Grace International providing in-country leadership. And we have whole church bodies like Lott Carey, the African-American Baptist Mission Collaboration and the United Church of Christ that together represent literally thousands of churches, giving financially.”
But Iafigliola said there’s a much bigger partnership at work.
“I believe what is deep beneath it all is that God gets down within people’s hearts and causes them to give,” he said. “That’s really it! It’s that simple. There is no other explanation that explains how all this can happen.”
Susan Sanders, the UCC’s Minister for Global Sharing of Resources, is among those pleased to have partnered with The Fuller Center, particularly at such a milestone.
“All people deserve to live in safe, adequate and permanent housing,” Sanders said. “The United Church of Christ is humbled to partner with Haitian families and The Fuller Center for Housing to
build permanent housing solutions. We look forward to continuing this critical mutual ministry.”
Grass-roots effectiveness changes lives
The UCC’s One Great Hour of Sharing grant helped build 10 permanent homes with The Fuller Center and Homes for the Heart in Croix-des-Bouquets this year for people like Marie-ange Rosalva, who now has a home with her four children — realizing a dream she shared with her husband before he died; Chrisostome Sheslie, who had been living in a tent with her three daughters since the 2010 quake; and Beauvoir Louis, whose wife died unexpectedly of a stroke after the quake, leaving him to raise two daughters alone.
“The most important thing in life is to have a decent place to sleep at night,” Louis said.
More than 100 Haitian families know exactly how he feels after partnering with The Fuller Center to own homes. It’s a testament to the grass-roots effectiveness of The Fuller Center, which proportionately could have replaced all 200,000 homes damaged by the 2010 quake with less than 12 percent of the total money pledged to help Haiti in the aftermath. Operating without the limitations of high overhead or burdensome bureaucracy, The Fuller Center is able to put donations directly to work in Haiti. As more people learn of this effectiveness, Iafigliola believes this will help the hundreds of thousands still living in the tent cities of the Western Hemisphere’s poorest nation.
“We need to invite in more partners, large and small, to help us increase the scale of the work being done,” he said. “With the proven success of our current projects on a small budget, we are looking to find more partners who are serious about making change happen in Haiti so that we can replicate communities like the one at Lambi and build hundreds of homes like the ones being built in Croix-des-Bouquets.
“And we will keep on doing it using methods that promote sustainable change, such as by involving Haitians in the work of building their homes and by contributing to building the Haitian economy by sourcing the materials there locally in Haiti.”
In addition to the local workers employed in the building, The Fuller Center’s Global Builders teams have been a huge component in the success in both Lambi and Croix-des-Bouquets. There is a dedicated corps of volunteers who have led multiple Global Builders trips to Haiti.
Volunteer Amara Neng is one of those leaders of multiple trips who said the Haitian people are what draw them to the Caribbean nation again and again.
“It’s the people, really,” she said last week after returning from her third build trip within a year. “I’ve seen in Haiti more than anywhere else I’ve ever been that you walk around and see the devastation and desperation, but the people there are just beautiful in terms of being appreciative and grateful and happy with what they have, which to us is so little.”
Iafigliola said the people, coupled with the visible progress, keep volunteers returning.
“The contrast between the tents and temporary shelters given to Haitians and the permanent homes being built for families is enormous, and our teams are able to see that transformation first-hand,” he said. “Haiti and its affectionate people grab your heart, and it’s hard to keep yourself from wanting to go back.”
Video marking the third anniversary of the Haiti earthquake: