It had been 18 long months since I built houses overseas, and nearly as long since I had left the United States. WAY too long for me. I had been leading volunteer teams abroad to partner with families in need of decent shelter with Habitat for Humanity—two or three times a year! You can imagine I was feeling a bit like a caged bird.
Finally in spring of 2021 amidst the global pandemic when The Fuller Center for Housing began welcoming team leaders to plan trips overseas again I jumped. I had been wanting to do a Global Builders build in Peru, and this was the perfect opportunity. I had no trouble recruiting a team of 16. Apparently I wasn’t the only one eager to travel.
Building with Fuller Center was much like what I was used to with Habitat. The mission of this grassroots, non-profit ministry is the same: build until everyone in need has a decent roof over their heads. But the project in Peru is unlike any I’d seen in all my decades of building. Not just houses, but an entire community, which now has water, electricity, schools, health clinics, markets and churches.
About a three-hour drive from Lima, most of the residents of La Florida come from other parts of Peru, particularly the Andes. Most make a living as migrant workers in the surrounding fields and farms. Unable to earn enough for decent homes, they live in structures made from reed panels among the sand dunes. These houses are flimsy and lack privacy, and few have access to basic services. Over 70% of the rural population of the country live in homes with dirt floors.
Now, thanks to the Global Builders program, 100 families live in permanent dwellings—for many a first. Because the cost of land in the community is reasonable, families are able to save over time to purchase the land. Every partner family performs 300 hours of their own labor, or sweat equity, and is required to dig their own foundation. The Fuller Center collects repayments on the no-profit, no-interest mortgages, and those revenues fund the construction of more homes. For all these reasons, these hard-working families make great candidates for homeownership.
Meet Giorel | Partner Family for House #1
The team worked on two homes. The first was ready for the roof. After it was in place, we began work on the soffit and fascia, pouring the concrete floors, installing doors and windows and painting the exterior. It’s always exciting to finish a house so that it can be dedicated at the end of our work week. Turning over the keys brings tears of joy!
Meet Rocio | Partner Family for House #2
Having dug the foundation, the second family was now ready for us to help fill the bedrock, mix and pour the concrete footers, and build the rebar towers used to prevent damage from earthquakes. If it can be said that the first house needed some skillful finesse, this one needing strong hands and backs! Good thing on our team we had both.
Wednesday afternoon we knocked off a bit early and took a ride to the town of Lunahuana, a popular resort destination for those looking to escape the big city for a few days, to enjoy white water rafting, while some of the team leisurely strolled in town. On the way back to Cañete, where we stayed for the build, we hit our Peruvian host coordinator Zenon’s favorite Pisco distillery. Think winery only with pisco, which is, by the way, made from grapes.
House #1 Dedication Day!
Our last day at the worksite was a busy one, putting the final touches on Giorel’s house and ceremoniously handing over the keys. Afterward we assembled over 100 goody bags for kids at the local school.
Check out our MUSIC VIDEO to see us in action and catch a glimpse of the full experience!
Pro-Tips For Future Team Leaders
- The first and last rule, ALWAYS remain flexible. But if you feel strongly about wanting to do something or not, speak up, since things can always be worked out. I enjoyed having some wiggle room over our plans.
- The best way to protect yourself from insect bites, as well as the sun, is by wearing long pants and a long sleeved shirt. Even products with pure deet didn’t help as much covering up!
- Bring a solid pair of earplugs, always a great idea. Even if you aren’t a particularly light sleeper you may find the cacophony of cock crows, loud speaker announcements and the occasional fireworks display, rather disruptive.
- I’ve decided never to do a build again without a back brace. Definitely would have helped with the heavy lifting.
- If Zenon is your host coordinator, talk to him every chance you get. He has absolutely amazing stories. We all agreed—he’s one of the most interesting people we’ve ever met. Ask him what’s possible. He’s a “make it happen” kind of guy!
- The food is wonderful. If there’s something you want to try, most likely it can be put on the menu. Lima has some of the continents best restaurants. If food is your thing, pick them ahead of time and make reservations.
- Read my post on 24 Hours in Lima.
- Although there is a lot to see in Peru, if you have time and you have never been, plan a post-build trip to Cusco and see Machu Picchu. There are quick ways to see this incredible wonder and there are longer, more strenuous ways to get there. Whatever way you choose, you won’t be disappointed with it’s history or breathtaking beauty.
- Read my post on Cusco and hiking the Inca Trail.