Americus Times-Recorder, Americus, Georgia

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December 17, 2012

How The Fuller Center is building a better Haiti

AMERICUS — Though more recent disasters elsewhere have taken the spotlight off of Haiti nearly three years after a massive earthquake rocked the already poverty-stricken Caribbean nation, The Fuller Center for Housing's work there continues to grow.

Building in two main areas — near the earthquake's epicenter in Gressier and the northeast Port-au-Prince suburb of Croix-des-Bouquets — The Fuller Center's work is easily measurable in one way: A total of 71 new homes have been built, including 47 in 2012.

But while the home counts are growing yearly in measurable ways, not as easily quantifiable is the way The Fuller Center is empowering Haitian homeowners, communities and workers. During the past week, however, light has been shed on how both house counts and empowerment are poised for even more growth in the future, particularly in Croix-des-Bouquets.

Jacob Battle wants to see a 100-home village built in Croix-des-Bouquets.

Fuller Center Director of International Field Operations Ryan Iafigliola met at The Fuller Center's international headquarters in Americus with several people involved in the project — including lBattle, who was in Croix-des-Bouquets last month for the construction and dedication of a Fuller Center triplex that is now home to three families totaling 20 people. Now, Battle wants to see a 100-home village go up in the same area.

“I think it's doable; it can happen,” said Battle, who has been developing relationships with people and businesses on the ground in Haiti through his Voice for Haiti mission. “We have all that we need in order to make it happen — we just have to make sure that we raise the resources to do it.”

Battle believes that the cost-efficient homes he has built in conjunction with Fuller Center partner Mike Bonderer (whose Homes from the Heart builds Fuller Center homes in Haiti and El Salvador) meet a need and fill a niche in Haiti.

“There's not a whole lot of people coming in to build homes,” Battle said. “There are people who come in and build a house, but it's more expensive, twice the amount of money for which we can build a house, and it's not as sound as the one that we build. Our house will surpass any one of the houses that some of the organizations have built there. Our house would surpass that by a football field.”

The newest Fuller Center triplex in Croix-des-Bouquets — simple, sturdy and greatly appreciated.

“The Croix-des-Bouquets project in Haiti has made some tremendous progress in the last 12 months as it completed 20 homes,” said Iafigliola, who was impressed with Battle's vision and with reports from Jimmy Dieudonne, a Croix-des-Bouquets resident who also was in town to offer his perspective as a construction supervisor there. “Mike Bonderer, Jacob Battle and Jimmy Dieudonne are definitely masters at stretching every dollar to their limit. They're not working for any pay — they've simply committed their lives to giving themselves to helping others have a decent place to live.”

Fuller Center President David Snell also praised the work in Croix-des-Bouquets for carrying on The Fuller Center's mission of using a hand-up approach focused on long-term results. Snell wanted to make sure that The Fuller Center's efforts there would be effective and make long-lasting impact as he feared that the flood of handouts pouring into the nation immediately after the quake would ebb and leave Haitians high and dry. When he committed to working in Haiti, he committed for the long haul.

“In the early days after the earthquake, then Fuller Center board members DJ Bakken and Jacob Battle built the first Fuller Center recovery houses in Croix-des-Bouquets,” Snell said. “With our partners Homes from the Heart and Voice for Haiti, our work continues there to this day. We're there for the long term, helping this battered country recover in the hopes that a better Haiti will rise from the earthquake's devastation.”


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