Flowers for La Florida
Two Fuller Center Global Builders teams traveled to the rural village of La Florida, Peru in summer 2009. In this first-hand account, volunteer Wendy Hearn describes her experience and the great need she encountered in the area.
Two hours south of Lima, Peru, through a desert that looks a lot like the surface of the moon, lies a little town with a population of around 2,000 called La Florida. The town is void of color: no grass, trees, plants or flower. Straw houses and cement buildings line dusty road. There is no electricity or running water. The only source of water is a canal which runs through the dry pueblo for the entire community. Everyone uses that canal for cooking, cleaning, bathing, and washing clothes.
In August of 2007, an earthquake devastated a wide area along the coast of Peru, including La Florida, forcing many people to flee. Others stayed because it was the only place they had ever lived, but they were left with close to nothing. Even before the earthquake, houses in La Florida were substandard. Now people live in houses made of flimsy bamboo and straw, inadequate for sheltering occupants from occasional rain and cold nights.
Fortunately, a change is beginning. For the first time, the town of La Florida is experiencing a sense of hope. Word spread fast among the residents that The Fuller Center would be helping people acquire a durable home they could afford at no profit and no interest, paying little by little (poco a poco). The community also embraced the idea of sweat equity. So far, 200 families are on the waiting list. Monthly payments are around 100 soles (or $30) over the course of 11 years making it possible for a family to afford a simple, descent place to raise their children.
Fuller Center Peru is lead by Zenon Colque, a long time friend of Linda and Millard Fuller. A handful of devoted locals make up the staff. Since it began, more than 20 houses have been completed, moving families from temporary houses to strong brick ones. The entire town has adopted Millard Fuller as their "mentor and protector." Large banners of Millard have been hung on buildings showing him wearing his tool belt and looking down on the people. There is a joke among the locals that no matter where they stand, his eyes are always watching. In the school, there is a group of eleven young men who have called themselves "Los hijos (The sons) de Millard Fuller." They think of Millard not only as a man of God but someone who is watching over them and giving them hope for a more dignified way of life.
The Fuller Center in La Florida doesn’t just build houses; they are working everyday to build a community. At the beginning of June 2009, a major project was completed by The Fuller Center with the help of the community. Seventy-four new trees were planted along the dusty canal that runs down the newly named Millard Fuller Boulevard. This Boulevard is in the center of the town and is the heart of La Florida. Each tree represents the 74 years of Millard’s life. Families have adopted the trees and consider it an honor to care for their tree until it is healthy enough to survive on its own. This has caused such a sense of pride that the community has acted on its own and planted ten more trees. Soon flowers of hope, planted by the loving hands in La Florida, will bloom under the beautiful Peruvian sun.
The Fuller Center is working miracles on a tight budget. Donations and prayers are sorely needed to continue building houses. Also needed are volunteers with an adventuresome spirit and the will to do something wonderful.