Category Archives: The Fuller Center for Housing

Meet Don Wilman and Abigail

It’s time to get back to the work! Next week I’ll be traveling with a team of volunteers to Maunabo, Puerto Rico. While there, we will help to improve the home of Don Wilman and Abigail. Let’s meet this family!

Don Wilman and his wife Abigail inherited their home from Abigail’s parents. They shared the home with their adult daughter and their granddaughter. But when Hurricane Maria struck as a category 5 storm, their lives were forever changed.

Abigail recounts those terrifying 48 hours while their family endured:

We “believed that the house was falling on us but there was nowhere for us to go. We couldn’t leave my husband [bedridden following knee surgery] alone. The hurricanes destroyed the doors and several windows, the walls and ceiling cracked.”

“It was a horrible day and night. Our granddaughter was screaming. My husband was motionless. I couldn’t breathe.”

Once the storm passed, more problems arose. “My daughter and my brothers looked everywhere for somewhere we could shelter.  There was no electricity for the therapies I [asthma] or my granddaughter [kidney disease] needed. It was very distressing. Then came the mold and the moisture on the walls. We did not qualify for housing aid because our house belonged to my parents.  We did not have the resources to repair it as we wanted. We already had a lot of medical bills. Those increased following the hurricane.” Abigail recounted her experience.

She added, “We cried constantly.”

In order to seek medical treatment, Abigails daughter and granddaughter left Puerto Rico for the mainland of the US. Soon after, Abigail and Don Wilman followed because their house was no longer habitable. Depression threatened to consume them until they found an opportunity for assistance from The Fuller Center for Housing – Puerto Rico.

Our team is excited to assist Don Wilman and Abigail achieve their dream of returning to their family home in Puerto Rico. Over the course of our week on the island, we will break down some walls in order to convert it to a larger, handicapped accessible home with two rooms.  We will repair doors and install new windows, build a closet and a ramp for accessibility, change the entrance, and upgrade the electrical system. We will also rebuild the kitchen, plaster, and paint. 

Stay tuned for a post-build update on our progress!

*Thank you to the Fuller Center for Housing and the Fuller Center – Puerto Rico for providing information and photos used in this story!

Nuevo Cuscatlán, El Salvador (May 2022)

The team had an amazing week in El Salvador working with the Fuller Center for Housing and People Helping People in this community of 130 homes. In addition to our team of 25 volunteers, we worked with 6 staff members, 6 volunteer translators, multiple future homeowners, approximately 35 local skilled workers and a crew of ~70 inmates participating in El Salvador Plan Cero Ocio (work release/rehabilitation). We accomplished a lot and had some fun along the way!

El Salvador, is the smallest Central American country yet with a popluation of 6,090,646 ( est.), it is one of the most densely populated countries in the world.  Approximately 700,000 Salvadorans are in need of decent, adequate housing. An estimated 30.7% of the population lives below the poverty line and over 40% of the rural population lives in homes with dirt floors and impermanent wall materials. Within the last few years, the local goverment has been instrumental in helping families obtain full ownership and title to the land where they reside. However, many Salvadoran families continue to struggle to survive while living in dilapidated housing subject to natural disasters such as flooding, mudslides and earthquakes.

The Fuller Center has been building in El Salvador since 2008 and has completed over 350 homes in communities throughout the country.  Our specific project took place in the community of Nuevo Cuscatlán, just outside San Salvador.  We assisted partner families as they built two-story homes of about 600 square feet with 3-4 small bedrooms, a kitchen, a living room, and an indoor shower with flush toilet. Homes are made of blocks with simple metal roofs. The partner families will repay the cost of building the homes using no-profit, no-interest loans over a 12 year, 7 month period.  A decent home has been shown to improve numerous health measures, educational outcomes, and a family’s overall well-being.  

About the Global Builders Program

Global Builders is The Fuller Center for Housing’s short term volunteer program, sending teams on domestic and international home-building trips, where partner families help build the homes and then will repay the cost on a no-interest basis to help more local families. All trips are hosted by our trustworthy Fuller Center covenant partners around the world, who love having volunteers join them in serving God by partnering with the poor. 

For more information or to join a team, visit https://fullercenter.org/global-builders/.

About The Fuller Center for Housing

The Fuller Center for Housing, faith-driven and Christ-centered, promotes collaborative and innovative partnerships with individuals and organizations in an unrelenting quest to provide adequate shelter for all people in need worldwide. Their foundational principles include the beliefs that: We are part of a God movement, and movements don’t just stop. We have been called to this housing ministry; we didn’t just stumble into it. We are unashamedly Christian, and enthusiastically ecumenical. We aren’t a church but we are a servant of the Church. We are faith-driven, knowing that after we’ve done all we can do the Lord will help finish the job — something that requires us to stretch beyond our rational reach. We are a grass-roots ministry, recognizing that the real work happens on the ground in communities around the world through our covenant partners — so a large, overseeing bureaucracy isn’t needed. We try to follow the teachings of the Bible and believe that it says that we shouldn’t charge interest of the poor, so we don’t. Government has a role in our work in helping set the stage, but that we shouldn’t look to it as a means to fund the building of homes.

To learn more, visit https://fullercenter.org.

**Thanks to Gente Ayudando Gente for providing the team photo.

Return to volunteering!

Wow, it’s been so long. 656 days to be exact, not that I’m counting. But it’s true – I got home from my last international volunteer mission “in the time before” in January 2020. And in November 2021, I was finally able to participate in another house-building service trip. That’s a great thing because while many of us are lamenting the loss of our ability to easily travel or see our friends or go out to a restaurant/bar/movie/event, there are many people who didn’t have such a comfortable place to ride out this pandemic. Those without a safe and decent home have struggled in ways that we cannot fully understand.

There are still many uncertainties and travel is NOT simple. The requirements and regulations are constantly changing. Travel in the developing world was already challenging – add pandemic-related safety concerns and you may give yourself a migraine just thinking about it! But if you are prepared and flexible, brave and determined you will make it work. Because there is a lot to be done and every bit, no matter how small, makes a difference.

At this point, because it is so complicated, only a handful of organizations have taken up the call to return to work, putting extra precautions in place for everyones safety. Many countries are still closed to international visitors, or require lengthy quarantines on arrival which make short-term visits unrealistic. Countries willing to allow foreigners to enter without quarantine often have covid vaccination/testing requirements which present significant logistical and financial challenges. And then there are the prospects of traveling in close quarters 24/7 with a group of people who have been existing outside your established bubble and of working in areas that may not have been exposed to covid if not for your presence. Oh my. It’s a lot to consider. But where there’s a will there’s a way!

The journey of this team began almost a year ago. I rallied a group of amazing humans who were not only willing and able, but who had the best combination of patience, positive outlook, generosity and flexibility. Because I suspected we would need all of those qualities in abundance. And as it turns out, it was true!

We partnered with The Fuller Center for Housing on this amazing trip. We originally planned to work in Madagascar, but Covid continued to block our entrance and we decided to reroute instead to Ghana. Challenge #1 of #947 surmounted. 😉 Madagascar did open it’s borders to international travelers – but only about 3 weeks before our planned arrival and still with a mandatory quarantine. We’ll just have to see that adventure for another day! I’m not sorry that we chose to go to Ghana. Do you want to hear about our work? Here’s the story!

Our team arrived in Accra, Ghana on a sunny and HOT day in November (we would soon discover that the heat does not ever stop!). Many of us knew some of our fellow teammates from prior volunteer work but I was the only one who was lucky enough to know everyone at the start. Lunch gave us the opportunity to get introduced to each other and to meet our hosts for the next two weeks. Then we headed out of town!

Our work would take place in the small community of Obretema, Ghana. It’s about 2 hours north of Accra close to the larger town of Suhum. On Monday, we were officially welcomed by the chiefs and members of the community.

After the formalities were complete it was time to get to work! We learned that our support would enable the construction of three homes. When we arrived, the foundations had already been started. Well, sort of… 🙂 On the first house (below left), the foundation was already built about 2 feet above ground. On the second house (below right), at least the digging was complete! The third house (not pictured) was in a similar state to the second. We had our work cut out for us!

Over the next two weeks, we moved a lot of dirt, rock and blocks. And along the way, we were able to meet each of the amazing future homeowner families.

William and Gifty, along with their 5 children, will be living in House #1. They currently live in the family house of William’s parents in the community adjacent to the project site, so we were able to see them every day! Their current home is a mud house which leaks when it rains and lacks a toilet. William is a construction worker by trade and put his skills to use on the job site. You could tell he was motivated to get this house built for his family. Gifty, along with her youngest son, also visited the team every day. We enjoyed getting to know them. Pictured below are their family at their current home (top left), Gifty and her son on site with volunteers (top right), and William and his son in front of their future home (bottom).

Francis, Susana and their 4 children will be living in House #2. They currently live in a rented house without a bathroom or kitchen which is about an hour from the current community, but were able to come on site a few times to meet the team and help with the construction of their home. Francis is a mango farmer and Susana runs her own seamstress business! They are excited to move into this new community and begin building a better life for their family. They are pictured below with one of their daughters – working on site and sharing their joy!

Daniel, his wife Sarah, and their 4 children will be living in House #3. Daniel is the first disabled person to be a selected as a Fuller Center Ghana home recipient. He suffered from polio as a child and has lived a difficult life, facing physical challenges and stigmatization, but he is so excited for this opportunity! His family currently lives in a single rented room. They use a shared kitchen, public toilet for a fee, and pay for water from a community well which dries up during the dry season. He visited with us for just one day (his current home is also distant from this community) and was full of smiles. Here he is (red shirt) standing in front of his future home.

By the end of the week, we had made great progress on all three homes. Here’s how things looked on our last day: William and Gifty’s house (top), up to the roof level! Francis and Susana’s house (middle) ready for the lintel. And Daniel and Sarah’s house (bottom) about half way there!

Of course, along the way there were so many fun times. We laughed, cried and learned together as we got to know the people of Ghana. In addition to meeting the homeowners and the amazing staff who supported our trip, some of our other highlights were working with the local volunteers, visiting the community school, seeing families flourishing in homes built a few years ago and of course sharing a very special Thanksgiving with this team!

And….the best news came just a few days ago. In the 4 weeks since our team left Ghana, local workers have continued to make progress and now all houses are up to the roof love, some with the roof nearly complete. 🙂

This trip would not have been possible without the courage and support of so many people. The team members and families are all grateful for the kindness and generosity of each person who played a role in the success of this project. Every single dollar donated or minute spent in this community makes a big difference. We couldn’t have done it without you! I hope to “work” with you again soon. <3

Obretema, Ghana (November 2021)

We are back! What an amazing way to return to volunteering after a nearly 2 year hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Our team of 13 volunteers worked closely with families and members of the community to start construction on 3 homes. Within a few months, these families will be first time homeowners with a safe place to raise their children.

Ghana, formerly referred to by Europeans as the Gold Coast, is located in West Africa and has been described in some quarters as the Gateway to Africa. This country is known for the friendliness of its people, the warm welcome given to visitors, and its cultural uniqueness and identity. Ghana stands as a stable, peace-loving nation that is the perfect introduction to a fascinating and beautiful continent.

Despite it’s strengths, about 40 percent of the population lives below the poverty rate (Ghana Statistics Survey Report). In many rural communities in Ghana, mud houses, which once provided shelter for the extended family, are crumbling. Poor drainage systems combined with torrential rains destroy mud foundations. Walls collapse, sometimes injuring those standing by. Traditional roofing is of split bamboo or palm leaves thatch which must be replaced frequently to prevent collapse of the entire building and allow for critter infestation. Families still occupying these houses are overcrowded. There is also a compelling need for accommodation in the urban areas caused by landlords requiring between two and six years of rent advance. A greater number of urban dwellers who cannot afford the rent advance live in slums or overcrowded houses which lack sanitary conditions.

About the Global Builders Program

Global Builders is The Fuller Center for Housing’s short term volunteer program, sending teams on domestic and international home-building trips, where partner families help build the homes and then will repay the cost on a no-interest basis to help more local families. All trips are hosted by our trustworthy Fuller Center covenant partners around the world, who love having volunteers join them in serving God by partnering with the poor. 

For more information or to join a team, visit https://fullercenter.org/global-builders/.

About The Fuller Center for Housing

The Fuller Center for Housing, faith-driven and Christ-centered, promotes collaborative and innovative partnerships with individuals and organizations in an unrelenting quest to provide adequate shelter for all people in need worldwide. Their foundational principles include the beliefs that: We are part of a God movement, and movements don’t just stop. We have been called to this housing ministry; we didn’t just stumble into it. We are unashamedly Christian, and enthusiastically ecumenical. We aren’t a church but we are a servant of the Church. We are faith-driven, knowing that after we’ve done all we can do the Lord will help finish the job — something that requires us to stretch beyond our rational reach. We are a grass-roots ministry, recognizing that the real work happens on the ground in communities around the world through our covenant partners — so a large, overseeing bureaucracy isn’t needed. We try to follow the teachings of the Bible and believe that it says that we shouldn’t charge interest of the poor, so we don’t. Government has a role in our work in helping set the stage, but that we shouldn’t look to it as a means to fund the building of homes.

To learn more, visit https://fullercenter.org.

**featured photo credit: D. Geiser

Maunabo, Puerto Rico (August 2022)

We are heading to Puerto Rico! What a great way to wrap up the summer, doing some meaningful work with like-minded souls in this community.

The Caribbean island of Puerto Rico, which means ‘Rich Port’, is a U.S. territory and its people are U.S. citizens. Puerto Rico is a place rich with history, diversity, and beauty – from the tropical beaches to the delicious food.    Even in the face of heart-breaking devastation and loss, those things are still true.

In September of 2017, Puerto Rico was hit by Hurricane Irma followed by Hurricane Maria. Either one of those hurricanes was enough to cause significant damage, but paired together they devastated the island. It’s estimated that the damages amounted to nearly $90 billion and countless homes were destroyed or damaged.

The Fuller Center for Housing Puerto Rico works to repair and rebuild damaged homes on the southeast corner of the island where the storms first slammed ashore. The largest town in this area, Maunabo, has a population of about 15,000 people and is surrounded by beautiful beaches of blue and green water on one side, and high mountains on the other that keep it secluded from the rest of the island. Volunteers work and stay in a rural community on the outskirts of town called Calzada, which has 184 families plus another 96 families in the surrounding area – all of whom are still in the midst of the long recovery process. It is a rural area far from the capital that certainly was not wealthy even before the storm. Many families are living with blue tarps as roofs and are being affected by unsanitary and unsafe living conditions because of the damage to their homes. But we can help change that!

About the Global Builders Program

Global Builders is The Fuller Center for Housing’s short term volunteer program, sending teams on domestic and international home-building trips, where partner families help build the homes and then will repay the cost on a no-interest basis to help more local families. All trips are hosted by our trustworthy Fuller Center covenant partners around the world, who love having volunteers join them in serving God by partnering with the poor. 

For more information or to join a team, visit https://fullercenter.org/global-builders/.

About The Fuller Center for Housing

The Fuller Center for Housing, faith-driven and Christ-centered, promotes collaborative and innovative partnerships with individuals and organizations in an unrelenting quest to provide adequate shelter for all people in need worldwide. Their foundational principles include the beliefs that: We are part of a God movement, and movements don’t just stop. We have been called to this housing ministry; we didn’t just stumble into it. We are unashamedly Christian, and enthusiastically ecumenical. We aren’t a church but we are a servant of the Church. We are faith-driven, knowing that after we’ve done all we can do the Lord will help finish the job — something that requires us to stretch beyond our rational reach. We are a grass-roots ministry, recognizing that the real work happens on the ground in communities around the world through our covenant partners — so a large, overseeing bureaucracy isn’t needed. We try to follow the teachings of the Bible and believe that it says that we shouldn’t charge interest of the poor, so we don’t. Government has a role in our work in helping set the stage, but that we shouldn’t look to it as a means to fund the building of homes.

To learn more, visit https://fullercenter.org.