Rosie Joseph’s life was completely uprooted on January 12, 2010 — the same as hundreds of thousands of other Haitians when a massive 7.0-magnitude earthquake struck the already impoverished Caribbean nation.
But the earthquake that destroyed her shack of a home was just the first in a series of devastating blows for Rosie, who then lost her 32-year-old daughter and took in her two grandchildren — not into a home or a shack but into a tent, and not even a decent tent at that.
She tried to find jobs cleaning offices to supplement the little money she had to raise her grandchildren — to no avail as jobs are scarce in Haiti. Finding a decent home in which to raise her grandchildren seemed hopeless in a country where hope has faded since an early rush of support after the 2010 earthquake.
But not everyone has abandoned Haiti in its time of need. Among those groups still at work four years after the quake is The Fuller Center for Housing, which has built 115 homes, mostly in the Port-au-Prince eastern suburb of Croix-des-Bouquets and the Lambi Community west of Port-au-Prince near Leoganne. The work of The Fuller Center is growing, thanks to generous financial supporters, volunteer builders and partnerships with organizations in Haiti such as Grace International and Homes from the Heart.
Rosie is among the most recent beneficiaries of a small yet beautiful simple home in Croix-des-Bouqets, built in partnership with Homes from the Heart with funds donated by the United Church of Christ and Fuller Center Global Builders volunteers from Serve Beyond Cincinnati, comprised of service-minded college students from the University of Cincinnati.
“God sent his angels to build this home,” Rosie says with a beaming smile.
The United Church of Christ funded the building of 10 homes with a $50,000 grant last year, and Rosie’s new home is one of 20 now being built with a $114,000 grant from the UCC. Of the 20 homes, 18 are being built in the Croix-des-Bouquets area and two in Lambi. The grant also will fund the construction of latrines for the Croix-des-Bouquets homes.
“Partnering with the UCC has enabled us to continue building at a steady, brisk pace,” said Ryan Iafigliola, The Fuller Center for Housing’s Director of International Field Operations. “This keeps the momentum going on the ground and renews hope for families in need of decent shelter. We — and, more importantly, the families — are so grateful to all the churches and church members who make this possible. The body of Christ is truly at work.”
The UCC grant has kept Fuller Center Global Builders coordinator Allen Slabaugh busy — which he appreciates.
“Being able to combine a grant, such as this one from the UCC, with our Global Builders teams really allows us to get a lot of work done at a very efficient pace,” he said. “These grants also are vital in helping us keep the work going while teams are not down there, allowing us to make an even bigger impact throughout the community.”
In addition to Rosie, a few other mothers in the Croix-des-Bouquets area also have recently benefited from The Fuller Center’s recent work in the area made possible by the grant, including a home built with another Global Builders group of college students from Methodist University that worked in December.
Chantalle Girardeau has seven children that she raises while her husband works all day as a farmer. They managed to save enough money for a small plot of land but not enough to undertake the building of a simple, decent house. A friend referred her to Homes from the Heart, which teamed up with The Fuller Center to build a small house that the family considers their “dream home.”
Michou Guerrier, meanwhile, is raising three children without a father and scrapes out a meager living by selling simple items such as pencils and paper on the street. Fortunately, she inherited a small piece of land and was able to partner with The Fuller Center to construct a decent home.
Not far away, Micheline Charleston and her family are finally off the streets and enjoying a safe, sturdy home that may be small by American standards but is beautiful by any standards.
These first four houses of the 20 from the UCC’s grant not only give volunteers a worthwhile outlet for their service efforts, but they also involve local labor, providing jobs to Haitians who desperately need work. Ultimately, though, it’s about giving families a decent place to live.
“These were people who were living in tents — well, not even tents but makeshift tents — and now they have good homes,” said Michael Bonderer, leader of Fuller Center partner Homes from the Heart.
VIDEO FROM SEPTEMBER, WHEN WE PASSED THE 100-HOUSE MILESTONE: