Overall, this trip was amazing! I think this type of volunteerism should be pursued more often because it is such a transformative experience. I have travelled and lived abroad before my trip to El Salvador, but never in this context. It is a totally different perspective that cannot be found being a tourist. To see Irma and her family work right alongside us volunteers and the smile on her face before we left was so inspiring. I hope to continue helping others and spreading more smiles around! No one should be without a home. Not when Homes from the Heart exists.
It is no wonder that Jesus said, “God blesses those who are poor and realize their need for him.” He said this, not to glorify poverty, but to show that the only receptacle for God’s grace is a vacant human heart. We all must become poor, in one way or another, to receive what God has to give.
Gomes insists that the Haitians provide him more than he can give them, but he says that is a familiar theme in poverty-stricken areas he has visited.“The people here are very well and very good,” he said. “They give you a free smile every time. It’s good to help someone. I’ve gone to other places like U.S. and Europe and some places in Brazil and they have almost every material thing, but they forgot to smile a lot and have an easy-going life. When you go to places like Haiti or some Indian places that are poor places, there is an exchange. No material things — more feelings and happiness and music. This is the kind of thing that brings me here to Haiti.”
“All the children in the community there are wonderful, but there’s something extra special about her,” said Fuller Center Global Builders coordinator Hailey Dady, who met Blanca on a trip to El Salvador in June. “She’s so full of life and determination.”
“Everybody loves her,” chimed in Mike Bonderer, leader of Homes from the Heart and director of The Fuller Center’s operations in San Luis Talpa. “She’s just got a dynamite personality. She’s very inspirational. I just think the world of her.”
This story illustrates how a group of likeminded folks with a servant’s heart can make anything happen when the Holy Spirit is involved. Be it The University of Cincinnati, a roving band of Mennonites, or a community in need of shelter with a willingness to help but limited funds, an overwhelming sense of volunteerism can make anything happen.
A 64 year old women stands in the street talking to a man; she is very small but there is strength in her that cannot be denied. They don’t speak the same language yet he knows what she wants from him.
She lives across the street in a house made of sticks, covered with plastic, old wood, and rusty sheet metal. There are no doors to separate the outside from the inside. The house has no windows yet the light finds its way inside to her reality; a place she shares with her family.
Homes from the Heart, with the University of Cincinnati and the University of California Los Angeles, just wrapped up a building initiative unlike anything we’ve done before. We had over 60 volunteers on teams in El Salvador, Haiti, Guatemala, and Nicaragua. Stay tuned for stories from our student volunteers!
“I have been on similar service trips before, but I had never seen a team come together and accomplish so much work in such a short time. Everyone on my trip got along so well and it really showed on the worksite. We were able to complete the walls in a four-room house in less than seven hours. We were told that our team set the record for doing so. We felt really proud of ourselves after that day.”
This area, along a lake called Etang Saumatre, is home to over 25,000 people. Most of them live in mud and thatch roof houses which are not permanent. We were starting the project in the community to build safe and permanent homes for the families, some who moved from the city after the earthquake.
Homes from the Heart cofounder Bob Miller died recently at his home in Kansas City, Missouri. Bob was a giant among generous people. His priorities in order were God, family, work. His legacy lives on through the thousands of people his generosity has benefited. Bob was a strong backer of building homes for those struck by disaster, first in El Salvador following the 2001 earthquake, and more recently in Haiti.
July 1st marked the arrival of a new group called Global Sustainability Project. All linked as UCLA alum, the group brought with them ideas and projects to work on development in our community in San Luis Talpa. The week was much different than our usual teams, since for the most part the group planned it out themselves.
The love and patience showed by everyone there was a yet another reminder of how important it is for us to care for the least of these, who are so often forgotten. We know the love shown to those kids and the rare chance for them to spend a day away from the orphanage was a blessing from God and we can’t thank Him enough for such an opportunity.
Referred to as the “Cincinatti Teacher’s Group”, a hodge-podge of mostly University of Cincinnati alumni, met up for a week in El Salvador filled with both hard work and fun. Joining them was a team from Vineville Baptist Church, ranging in age from 14-76. Each group brought different experiences, strengths, and talents that made for a fun-filled week for all.
A group of 10 UC students from the Pi Kappa Alpha Fraternity made their way down to El Salvador June 11th-19th for a week of working with concrete, concrete…and more concrete. Quickly settling into the jobs of shoveling, lifting buckets, and transferring concrete into the molds, the group put in a hard day’s work pouring walls. Every member of the team was willing to serve and help anywhere they were needed, and their ability to do some of the harder tasks was a huge factor in getting the work done.
The team found out about the Fuller Center’s building projects in El Salvador through one of their coaches. Lance Durbin, who coaches wide receivers for the championship team has been working with Highlands students for several years as a volunteer with the local Younglife program as well as the football program. Lance began coming to El Salvador with Serve Beyond Cincinnati, a group from the University of Cincinnati, in December 2007. He later led other groups down to work with the Fuller Center and recently spent 2.5 months volunteering in El Salvador. Lance says he is proud that several of the things he is most passionate about in life have come together through this project which will ultimately come together as shelter for a deserving family in El Salvador.
Students from the University of Cincinnati once again visited El Salvador for an Alternative Spring Break. Between March 20 – 27, ten students chose to spend their break from school building homes and getting dirty while having many adventures along the way. The students were representatives of the UC service group Serve Beyond Cincinnati which has been sending groups to El Salvador through the Fuller Center since December 2007.
Positive feedback from their experience has not stopped. Even after a difficult week, Carson Shook, who will graduate this year from East Lyme High School in Connecticut, found that after returning home “there are some things that make you realize how great life is, and how little you need to be happy, and what people truly care about you…I miss El Salvador.”Many of the participants on the trip were experiencing a foreign world for the first time. In El Salvador it is easy to find people generally living happy lives despite the fact many of the structures people call homes would not be suitable for a tool shed in the United States.
In the quest for relief Zuze Bonderer made several appeals for trees from local government agencies. Fuller Center staff have had a long term relationship with Consejo Nacionál, a Salvadoran Federal agency that deals with adolescent needs throughout the country. Carman Cordoba, a Director of Consejo Nacionál, directed us to the Alcaldias (City Hall) of San Salvador and Soyapango, the capitol and the second largest city in El Salvador. We wrote letters describing our organization and the need for trees in our projects. After running through the procedures we had success when the Alcaldia of Soyapango donated about 65 trees and small shrubs and San Salvador donated 75.
The real story is in the metal rebar. It is apparently the most valuable commodity in Soleil. I kept wanting the crew to help us get to the key structural points that needed to be cut out. They on the other hand wanted to secure the bundles of metal rebar we cut out.
These bundles or floor nerves are about a foot wide and 4 inches thick. They are made of a mass of rebar bound together. It gives the floor or ceiling it’s strengh. When we cut these out, there is a frenzy of activity. Everyone wants the bar. It is like we are mining for gold. Occasionaly, a length of rod would fall off the top of our building. Other people from the area would rush in to grab the rod and our crew would start screaming and running to stop them.
I guess this will look good on my resume. ”Rob works well with Gang Members in one of the toughest cities in the world”
Haitian gang members negotiate different than most of us do. They yell at each other. Then they talk fast at you. Then, I pick up my toys (I mean tools) and act like I am going home. Everyone calms down, I tell them how proud of them I am, then we hit fist and slap our chest in some gang symbol and we are all ok.
I was told today, they thought I was going to hook up a tractor and yank the second floor off the first. It does not work like that. You have to bust it up and push off the debris. You do this while not damaging the first floor or killing someone.
Mike my partner in helping people yelled at me today, “Rob you can’t go upstairs and out work the help. They will watch you work while they get paid.” So, I guess I will try to stay cleaner tomorrow. There is just so much to do here I feel everyone needs to be working harder than usual.