Our Fuller Center kids are growing up — and that’s what it’s all about

Our Fuller Center kids are growing up — and that’s what it’s all about

(Photo: We met Cindy and Manuel, above, during our first exploratory visit to Nicaragua. They captured our hearts, and their family would become the first to move from a shack to a new Fuller Center home in Las Peñitas, Nicaragua.)

Often when we think of a house, we picture walls, a roof, windows, doors and floors. But when you fill those walls with families trying to build a better life for themselves and their children, that house becomes a home. And home is the foundation, the basic building block for healthy families and successful children.

Studies have repeatedly shown what common sense already tells us — that children who grow up in a decent home are more likely to be happier, healthier and do better in school than those who do not. Sometimes, though, we need a reminder of that. Sometimes, we need to put a face with that statistic. And here’s a face we fell in love with way back in 2012 … Read More »

LEGACY BUILD 2018: International leaders enhance perspective by volunteering in U.S.

LEGACY BUILD 2018: International leaders enhance perspective by volunteering in U.S.

(Photo: Haiti’s Geral Joseph with Peru’s Vitaliano Enriquez)

Volunteers with the Fuller Center’s Global Builders program have contributed greatly to the home-building efforts in countries around the world — including such places as Haiti, Peru and Nicaragua. Representatives of those three Fuller Center for Housing international partners are in Americus, Georgia, this week helping Americans build homes for a change.

Geral Joseph, who has done an outstanding job leading The Fuller Center’s work in Pigñon, Haiti, is enjoying a week of not being the boss as a volunteer at the 2018 Millard Fuller Legacy Build.

“I’m very happy to come and see how the volunteers feel when they come down to Haiti.” Joseph said. “It’s the first time that I’m volunteering to build a house. It’s like giving something back to the American people because mostly they are coming down to help the Haitians. I think it’s my time to come help build a house.

“It’s very different,” he added, “but I wanted to feel like someone who comes to help as a volunteer. I think this will help me change a lot things because I’m coming to learn, too.”

Jose Santos

One thing Joseph learned is that it can get cold in Americus in April as the workday started with temperatures around 40 degrees. Jose Santos Rodriguez, who helps lead The Fuller Center’s work in Nicaragua could feel Joseph’s pain and then some.

“I’m freezing to death,” said Santos, whose first visit to the United states, first plane ride and first trip out of Nicaragua was last April at the Higher Ground on the Bayou blitz build in Hammond, Louisiana. He was happy to return to the United States for another round of build — and he was even happier when the sun began to warm the job site by the time lunch rolled around.

“At the beginning, it was hard, but it’s getting nicer,” he said of the weather, adding that he is happy to return the favor after hundreds of Americans have come to help his homeland. “The Americans have helped a lot to build our community.”

It also is a practical learning experience.

“This is very different than building in Nicaragua because we build with blocks and concrete,” he said. “Here, you use a lot of wood, so I’m learning a lot. It’s also important because you learn how to work together, as brothers and friends. You show us how to work as friends and brothers and improve the community.”

Zenon Colque

Zenon Colque’s relationship with Millard and Linda Fuller goes back to the early 1980s, and he now leads The Fuller Center’s work in Peru. His last Legacy Build volunteer experience was in 2011 in Minden, Louisiana. This time, he brought along a Peruvian colleague, Vitaliano Enriquez, who handles accounting for the covenant partner in Peru.

“I came to work in the U.S. to understand the feeling when Americans go to other countries, what they need when they go to foreign countries and know whether we are prepared in Peru for them,” Colque said. “This is just the first day, but I’m sure that in a week I will understand better. When we receive groups from America and other countries, we will be much better prepared.”

Colque’s experience with Millard and Linda Fuller’s affordable housing ministry dates back to the early 1980s, and he has spent much time in the United States. While he speaks English well, Enriquez knows almost no English but is finding that it is not a huge barrier on the job site.

“It’s very satisfying for me to do this kind of work — it’s not my everyday job,” Enriquez said through Colque, who is serving as his interpreter for the week. “It may not be easy, but there are ways to communicate with others using the hands and the face.”

By the time these Legacy Build homes are dedicated at 4 p.m. Friday, they will be joined by leaders from The Fuller Center’s new partner in Puerto Rico and our leadership from El Salvador.

View a photo gallery from Monday’s action at the 2018 Millard Fuller Legacy Build.

Professor uses Global Builders trips to broaden students’ perspective

Professor uses Global Builders trips to broaden students’ perspective

For Associate Professor of Business and Economics Henrique Cezar, Fuller Center Global Builders trips are more than just a chance for his students from Vermont’s Johnson State College to practice civic engagement and do some good in the world. They also are an opportunity to expose the students to diversity and cultural differences.

After leading students on Fuller Center Global Builders trips to Thailand, Nicaragua and, last year, Armenia, Cezar will take his team to work with The Fuller Center’s covenant partner in Trivandrum, India, this coming May.

Johnson State College’s student newspaper, Basement Medicine, has an outstanding piece about this service trip, featuring interviews with Cezar and students who will be making the trip.

Click here to read the complete article

Scott Brand: This literally takes team-building to another level

Scott Brand: This literally takes team-building to another level

As a corporate executive, Scott Brand has seen more than his fair share of team-building exercises, meetings, retreats and seminars. Each has its benefits, but unlikely at the level a literal building experience with The Fuller Center for Housing can provide.

However, the Fuller Center Global Builders trip he made to build homes in Nicaragua nearly two months ago not only changed his life, but it also opened his eyes to the immense team-building opportunity when philanthropic and corporate efforts blend to improve lives and business. To that end, he says he has dedicated the next few months to finding “creative ways of integrating philanthropy and corporate / team development.”

In a new LinkedIn post, Brand writes extensively and in detail about how this concept and specifically about how a Fuller Center Global Builders trip can be a more effective and likely less expensive team-building retreat while also having the tangible results of putting a family in a decent home.

click here for scott brand’s linkedin post

PHOTO GALLERY: Volunteers further improve school in Las Peñitas, Nicaragua

PHOTO GALLERY: Volunteers further improve school in Las Peñitas, Nicaragua

While on a Fuller Center Global Builders trip to Las Peñitas, Nicaragua, in late 2015, Rick White visited the Miracle of God Preschool. He found beautiful kids, dedicated teachers and woefully inadequate facilities. He resolved to do something about it.

He launched a fundraiser to pay for the addition of walls, safe electricity and running water, which he helped install. Then, he moved on to phase two of improvements, adding a covered patio and walled kitchen area. He and friend John Manchester went to Nicaragua last month to help complete that project. Next up is a weekend trip at the end of May to complete a latrine for the students.

While The Fuller Center for Housing is focused primarily on making sure families have simple, decent place to live, we are proud to be a catalyst for other improvements in communities and grateful to be associated with the good folks who go above and beyond to help build a better world.

Here are photos from last month’s work at the school:

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Volunteer writes of ‘gestaltism’ and ‘unending gratitude’ after Nicaragua trip

Volunteer writes of ‘gestaltism’ and ‘unending gratitude’ after Nicaragua trip

Roughly two weeks ago, 12 Americans, a Canadian, and a Brit arrived in a new country.  They represented different religions, world views, and occupations.  With ages spanning a range of 60 years, they would converge on a little-known village in Nicaragua called Las Peñitas.  Just over a week later, both the village and the 14 who were once strangers were changed in one way or another forever.

By Scott Brand

By Scott Brand

They say a true understanding of history requires time and context.  Meaning, it is nearly impossible to see or comprehend the impact of a change until there is enough distance from it to see it with a broader perspective.  This is our story from the perspective of one of those 14.

We all arrived with the best of intentions — aware of our differences, and wanting to ensure inclusion was evident.  At first it was overt, asking each for input and all willing to make concessions to show support for the new strangers in our lives.  We didn’t know that by the end, there would be no effort required.  That, in a way, 14 would become an extended family, with a common understanding and respect for the other.  Yet, when that first day of work began, it would have been difficult to predict that outcome with any confidence.

My journey began at the school, where the site was dirt, large boulders, and debris.  Our first task would be to remove the several hundred pound boulders.  We would try different techniques.  Dig with shovels, use pry bars, and get in each others way quite a bit.  About thirty minutes later, after several failures, we achieved our first goal and celebrated with high fives.  Though the celebration was short-lived as shovels and pick axes were distributed to build a trench that would be two feet wide, a foot and half deep, and roughly 35 linear feet.  No small task when considering the make up of the ground.  The minority of which was actual dirt, occupied primarily by dense clay and rock.  This would make up the majority of the remainder of our day.  Our first day.  The get to know each other day.  The light day.  It would end an hour and half later than expected, with just 20 minutes of daylight remaining and would finish with a fully poured concrete foundation.  While all of this was happening, the remainder of our team was laying block, mixing concrete and sifting in 90 degree heat to build a home roughly 100 yards away.  A humble description of the work our group wouldn’t come to understand until the following day.  

Each of the following days would have team members rotating to different sites, swapping for fresh legs and giving others an opportunity to share a moment in the shade.  Stories would be exchanged, sometimes one to one, others in small groups.  With each story, each collaborative task bringing us just a little closer.  In between the work, we would share meals with our extended Nicaraguan family who accepted us into their home.  We would learn about the Nicaraguan revolution.  Not as a historical event, but as personal accounts.  A boy pulled from school at 14 to fight against those he now calls friends.  A boy who would become a man through incredible adversity, tumble into despair only to emerge as a man who provides for his community every day with a smile and a Coke.  This was no longer some distant country on a map.  It was the home of Danilo, Alberto, Ricardo, Lorraina, Carlos, Santos, Benito, Veronique, Maria, Perla and so many more.  All who grow up in a different world than the 14 who arrived, but all shared the same common goal: Leave the world a little better than they found it.

This was no longer some distant country on a map.  It was the home of Danilo, Alberto, Ricardo, Lorraina, Carlos, Santos, Benito, Veronique, Maria, Perla and so many more.  All who grow up in a different world than the 14 who arrived, but all shared the same common goal: Leave the world a little better than they found it.

Which brings me to the key ingredient of any great team, a great leader.  There is a term that has begun to pick up popularity in the corporate world, and is quickly becoming the most recruited skill, but the most difficult to obtain.  The difficulty is that it is not only rare, but it cannot be seen on a resume.  That term is Servant Leadership.  A servant leader is one who serves the team first.  Not the boss, and not even the customer.  It is a working leader with no task being beneath him or her.  She leads with influence, and reserves her authority only for safety or moments of crisis.  She spends this authority wisely knowing that no one would challenge it when used so sparingly.  Instead, she removes obstacles, gives a heavy bucket a little extra lift, and casually breaks up a task with conversation when a member needs a break but won’t ask for it.  She has the unique ability to conduct the orchestra while playing percussion, setting the tempo, and allowing the orchestra to find the crescendo.  With each eloquent piece of music forming organically, and changing shape as it develops.  The actual outcome is undefined, unknown, and left to the symbiotic forces of the team.  And what few realize as they are developing the outcome, is that it can be terrifying at times for the leader.  The ambiguity, external forces, and knowing while the glory of success is shared by all, the risk of failure sits on the shoulders of one.  It is both courageous and selfless.  This team experienced the incredible good fortune of having that leader, and it will shape my own leadership for years to come.

A servant leader is one who serves the team first.  Not the boss, and not even the customer.  It is a working leader with no task being beneath him or her.

Back to 14 Nicas and one more term that received some attention this week.  Gestaltism, which means the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.  As I look back over the week, my belief in this phenomena is reinforced more than ever before.  Hundreds of buckets of gravel, sand, concrete and mortar were hoisted.  Blocks moved, staged, and placed in just the right place.  Scaffolding built, lumber transferred, and mortar filled.  Every single one of these tasks alone were essential.  Down to the last block, bucket and trowel.  But in the end, it was a home and a school annex.  In time, no one will focus on any of the parts.  They will see a family in a home, and children learning and enjoying a meal in school.  And through all of that, there was a third thing built.  It cannot be seen, it cannot be touched, but it is as real as any structure.  It is the 14 Nicas and the relationship we have developed.  The memories made, the lessons we’ve learned, the stories we shared.  There were tears, sweat, some blood, and so much laughter my greatest injury is probably in my abs.  

You each have my unending gratitude.  Each and every one of you has changed my perspective in some way or another, and together you have made a meaningful impact on my life.  From the bottom of my heart, thank you.

(Dedicated to Liz Bellantoni, a true servant leader, and to The Fuller Center for the great work they do around the world.)

Scott Brand is Senior Vice President in charge of North American Operations for Nielsen, an S&P 500 company.

Learn more about The Fuller Center
Global Builders program

Vote in the Fuller Center Global Builders’ annual photo contest

Vote in the Fuller Center Global Builders’ annual photo contest

Photos from Nepal, Haiti, Nicaragua, Thailand and Peru are among the 17 finalists in the Fuller Center Global Builders’ annual photo contest, and contest organizers would like your help in selecting the winner. The final two will be revealed on Friday, December 16 for the deciding round of voting.

Click here to see the finalists and vote

Local control, decision-making key part of our grass-roots ministry’s success

Local control, decision-making key part of our grass-roots ministry’s success

(This is part of regular series of blog posts related to The Fuller Center’s #MoreSmilesFewerShacks 2016 year-end campaign.)

The Fuller Center for Housing has seen an influx of new covenant partners over the past couple of years, especially from groups that formerly had been associated with other housing nonprofits. Reasons they often cite for joining The Fuller Center include having the ability to make decisions at the local level and not having to pay fees to a bureaucratic overseer where they consider their fees going too much toward overhead and not enough toward work in the field.

When Millard and Linda Fuller founded The Fuller Center in 2005, they saw it as an opportunity to return to the grass-roots, Christian principles with which they started the affordable housing movement more than 40 years ago. One of those principles was that day-to-day decisions are best left to local groups who know best what their local community’s needs are and the best ways to meet those challenges. They believed that headquarters’ role was to facilitate — and not dictate — the work in the field, in the United States or around the world. They also believed that local partners should be encouraged to tithe toward the ministry’s work elsewhere but never required to pay fees to be a part of the ministry.

ye-logoWe lost Millard in 2009, but The Fuller Center has not wavered in its grass-roots principles and never will. We still believe decisions are best made at the local level, and we do not require our local covenant partners to pay fees in order to go about their work in the field under our umbrella. We stand ready to help local partners in a multitude of ways, but, ultimately, the work is up to those hard-working folks in the mission field.

It’s one of the reasons The Fuller Center is succeeding in hard-to-work places like Haiti. While many U.S. outfits have parachuted into the country believing they know best how to work there, The Fuller Center worked to find Haitian partners willing and able to put our partnership housing principles into action.

When Millard and Linda Fuller founded The Fuller Center in 2005, they saw it as an opportunity to return to the grass-roots, Christian principles with which they started the affordable housing movement more than 40 years ago.

The Fuller Center’s mission is to help families have simple, decent places to live. That means different things in different places. To partners like Louisville and Philadelphia, that means resurrecting once-vacant, dilapidated properties and turning them into like-new homes. In Indianapolis, it means raising the walls of new homes. In Perry, Ga., and Tallahassee, Fla., it means repair projects like new roofs and wheelchair ramps. In El Salvador and Bolivia, it means building whole communities. In India and Nicaragua, they’re taking it one home at a time. And in places like Hammond, La., it’s new homes, repairs and helping people recover from historic flooding.

We encourage everyone to visit our international headquarters in Americus, Ga., but we must warn you that while it will be enlightening, it might not be terribly exciting. It’s a small, simple building with no fancy offices or lobby adorned with ornate fixtures. In fact, you might ask, “Is this it?” Well, yes it is. However, if you go visit our local partners, you will find excitement as that’s where the action and real work of this ministry happens. Sorry, though, you still won’t find any fancy offices. None is interested in overhead.

Local partners also happen to know best how to tell their stories. I hope that you will take a look at a couple of new short videos below — one produced by our partners in Philadelphia and one produced by our partners in Louisville. Both are fighting blight and empowering families by resurrecting vacant properties. It’s just one area of focus for our ministry, but it is one that they feel best suits their communities’ specific challenges.

When you consider your year-end giving options this year, be sure to support grass-roots nonprofits who direct your generosity to where it is truly needed — in the mission field.

click here to support
our year-end campaign