Catholic News Service: The Fuller experience of helping in Puerto Rico

Catholic News Service: The Fuller experience of helping in Puerto Rico

The Catholic News Service has an extensive new report on a team of 18 volunteers from St. Francis Builds, a program based in St. Camillus Catholic Church in Silver Spring, Maryland, who recently spent a week working with The Fuller Center for Housing’s new covenant partner in Puerto Rico through the Global Builders program. The group worked in the town of Maunabo’s Calzada sector, which was not evacuated before it bore the brunt of Hurricane Maria last year. In the story, volunteers talk about their experience helping hurricane victims repair their homes, and The Fuller Center’s local leaders in Maunabo talk about how they made a connection with The Fuller Center’s ministry.

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Fuller Center to begin work in one of Puerto Rico’s hardest-hit areas — and you can help

Fuller Center to begin work in one of Puerto Rico’s hardest-hit areas — and you can help

Though it was more than six months ago that Hurricane Maria bashed Puerto Rico as a strong Category 4 storm, many parts of the island look like they were just struck yesterday. More than 100,000 residents remain without electricity.

One of the hardest-hit areas was the southeastern portion of the island, across the mid-island mountains from bustling San Juan. It is here that The Fuller Center for Housing will begin sending its first Global Builders volunteer teams to work in long-term recovery and rebuilding efforts.

Specifically, volunteers will be staying in the small community of Calzada, which is composed of 184 families just on the outskirts of the city of Maunabo, which has about 15,000 residents. Volunteers will be working in Calzada and its surrounding area. It is a secluded region, nestled between the inland mountains and the blue-green sea whose waves roll upon strikingly beautiful beaches. Because of its secluded location, however, it also is expected to be among the last places on the island to have its electricity restored.

“The area where we’re working seems like a lovely small town community — except that it was one of the hardest-hit areas from the storms and still doesn’t have power,” said Fuller Center Director of International Field Operations Ryan Iafigliola, who visited the area in February. “They know what needs to be done, but they need help.”

The red marker denotes Calzada on the southeastern corner of Puerto Rico.

The Fuller Center does not parachute into areas of need and decide how to help. Instead, the nonprofit housing ministry works through local partners — whether that happens to be in a U.S. mainland city, a third-world country or a disaster zone. The Fuller Center’s success in Haiti following the 2010 earthquake can be greatly attributed to working through local partners on the ground. In Calzada, leaders say the need is for repairs and rebuilding in an area that was poverty-stricken even before Hurricane Maria. Blue tarps now serve as roofs for many of the homes.

“The way that we work is truly different from anyone else out there,” Iafigliola said. “We don’t send in our ‘man with a plan,’ we identify local leaders who want to do this type of work and help them to be successful at it. It’s very grassroots.”

The community of Calzada, Puerto Rico

When The Fuller Center announced last year that it would be looking for partners who would be able to host volunteers and put them to work, many people responded that they wanted to be among the first to volunteer on the island. Many of those people already are organizing teams and planning trips, which will be listed soon on The Fuller Center’s Global Builders Upcoming Trips page.

If you would like to know more about The Fuller Center’s plans for working in Puerto Rico, please visit our new Puerto Rico webpage here. You will find descriptions of the area, as well as information about what Global Builders trips there will be like and how you can express interest in joining or leading a work trip to Calzada. If you would like to donate to our work in Puerto Rico, please click here to give.

VIDEO: A look at the town of Maunabo, filmed two months after Hurricane Maria:

We are looking for partners to help Puerto Rico recover over the long haul

We are looking for partners to help Puerto Rico recover over the long haul

Note: If you are interested in possibly volunteering
to help rebuild homes in Puerto Rico in the future,
please click here to take our survey.


A message from Fuller Center President David Snell about plans for working in Puerto Rico:
I’ve been asked whether The Fuller Center for Housing has plans for helping our fellow Americans in Puerto Rico. The short answer is, yes, we hope to play a major role in the rebuilding of homes once the island transitions from immediate disaster relief to long-term disaster recovery.
Because we did not have an established partner in Puerto Rico before Hurricane Maria, we are in discussions with potential partners about how we can best help on the island. 
If you have a connection with a denomination’s disaster outreach arm or a like-minded group with an established presence on the island that might be interested in partnering with us, please let me know. You can email me, Fuller Center President David Snell, at or call 229-924-2900. 
We believe that our long-term recovery efforts in Puerto Rico would look much like our work in Haiti. We began working in Haiti months after the devastating January 2010 earthquake, once disaster relief groups had the emergency under control. Our work there continues to grow, and we have built more than 200 safe, permanent homes in the country. With the right partners, we can do even more in Puerto Rico.
Another question I’ve been asked: “Will you be sending volunteer teams to Puerto Rico?”
Any Fuller Center efforts in Puerto Rico will almost certainly have a volunteer component. Until we have a partner or our own presence on the ground, though, we will not have specifics to offer. However, if you would be interested in volunteering with The Fuller Center to help families rebuild, please fill out the short survey linked below to let us know. We will be in touch with you as plans develop.
Thank you for supporting The Fuller Center for Housing, and please keep those affected by this year’s devastating hurricane season in your prayers.
David Snell, President, The Fuller Center for Housing