The recipient of home 98 in Haiti is Josette Arnold, age 57. Josette has lived with her two children in the backyard of her church for the past five years.
Homes from the Heart is all about taking stories of loss and converting them into stories of giving. That brings us to home number 96.
Our team in Haiti completed its 95th home this week. The recipient of our home, Yvonne Poteau, experienced tragedy and the neighborhood came together to begin building a home, but ran out of resources. That is when they turned to Homes from the Heart to help them complete the job.
Guerda Charles is the recipient of Homes from the Heart's 94th home completed last week in Haiti. Guerda has been taking care of her grandchildren ever since the death of their mother in the earthquake.
Philogène "Nène" Edner is 56 years old and has always lived in the dirt house pictured below with his four children and one grandchild. The home is make shift and requires Nène to use buckets to catch leaking rain water. He has continued to raise those children after the loss of his wife in earthquake.
We are saddened to share that Michael Bonderer, Executive Director and a founder of Homes from the Heart (HFTH), passed away. Michael first became ill with pneumonia in El Salvador and returned to Kansas City for medical care. He later suffered complications from his illness and passed away peacefully in the company of his wife Zuze, brother Dan, daughters and other family members and friends on Wednesday, November 2, 2016.
Michael’s journey with the poor began in 2001 following two devastating earthquakes in El Salvador that destroyed over 330,000 homes. In response to that tragedy, Bob Miller, Jack Fisher and Ron Ward of Kansas City founded HFTH. Michael and Zuze immediately moved to El Salvador and have since built over 400 homes in the area.
Carline Joseph has three kids. She is a farmer. And she has lived in this house made of dirt since the earthquake. She had been unsuccessfully been fighting to get government housing for years. When she heard about Homes from the Heart, she reached out immediately.
Hurricane Matthew rocked the Caribbean and Southeast Coastal areas the past few weeks. As you have seen in the news and, as Jimmy's pictures reveal, there have been a lot of homes lost in the Southwest.
They say families that pray together, stay together. I would add that families who serve together, stay together.
With a last name like Miller, we could have been just about any run-of-the-mill family. It's easy to become a family that spends hours in front of separate television sets and falls into their own busy routines. Prioritizing family time is difficult. My family has found a way to make it work through the years and state lines that have attempted to divide us. A key component of that has been our shared focus on giving of ourselves to the community.
Few people in El Salvador have been more committed to helping the poor than Archbishop Oscar Romero. This Saturday, Pope Francis will beatify Romero in what is expected to be one of the largest ceremonies in El Salvador's history.
Salvadorans' love for Romero is well-earned. During his time as Archbishop, El Salvador was entering into a time of civil war and extreme violence. He served, often alone, as a voice for the voiceless, defending the rights of the poor.
It seems providential that even as Romero is being beatified, we have been invited to honor him at The Romero Community, building homes for families in severe poverty. For ten years, the community fought to receive the rights to their land, and their persistence has finally paid off. The President himself presented land titles to residents of the community last week in a ceremony full of grateful tears and smiles. Romero's legacy remains with the people of El Salvador, with the poor, and we are humbled and blessed to be a part of this redemptive story.
Perhaps you saw one of the many articles this January on what's been accomplished (or hasn't been accomplished) in Haiti since the 2010 earthquake. Haiti's recovery is anything but simple. However, there are proven methods that have worked, and which we continue to use, rebuilding Haiti one home at a time.
To know where we've come though, we should first consider where we started.
In 2010, a massive earthquake left over 2 million Haitians homeless. The earthquake destroyed or damaged roughly 250,000 homes.
As the poorest country in the Western hemisphere, and with little infrastructure to begin with, the nation was unprepared to respond. International Aid agencies rushed to the scene, providing much needed medical care, food, and temporary shelter. However, as is often the case with natural disasters, the ruckus fades on news stations and the next big disaster beckons our attention elsewhere.
Maculla Milien, like many of the Haitians that came through the 2010 earthquake, has known great loss. Her house, her husband, and her son, all were stolen from her in one cruel disaster. However, she didn't give up. She picked up the pieces and kept moving, supporting herself and her remaining children by buying goods that she could resell at the market. The tent pictured below provided meager shelter for the family as they continued to hope for a change.
Today, Maculla's hopes have turned into realities. She and her family live in a sturdy, dry, earthquake-resistant home complete with the bright colors and inviting front porch that are characteristic of Haitian culture. Not every loss can be restored, but this miracle, as Maculla calls it, can bring one family closer to healing and happiness. Their thanks and prayers are given to all who made this new home a reality.
“All in for Christ, family, communities, and selfless service to humanity worldwide.” In his own words, that was how Rick summed up his life, and he certainly lived it. Richard A. “Rick” Dye was a board member of Homes from the Heart for two years, until his recent passing on May 29th at the age of 52.
Going to El Salvador was an eye-opening experience that made me realize how fortunate we really are, but even more, it showed me that our main purpose in this life is to spread God's love.
This Spring Break, St. Teresa's Academy was one of the schools that joined us to serve the poor in Central America. They spent their time working in Chiltiupán, Soyapango, and San Luis Talpa, a few of our projects in El Salvador. Sister Rose had identified 300 families in Chiltiupán without bathroom facilities, so the team spent a lot of their time building latrines for families in the mountains. They also did maintenance projects, like painting and spackling, and spent time making friends with the local schoolchildren.
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.