Volunteers Provide Homes for Haitians

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MANASSAS, Va. -- Dozens of volunteers are building thousands of new houses for Haitians left homeless by January's massive earthquake. But they are building those homes in America.

However, there is an ingenious idea that will allow those new houses to travel from America to Haiti.

The volunteers are not just publicizing a project called Homes for Haiti. They are actually building those homes.

In Houston, Texas, Myrtle Beach, S.C., and a warehouse in rural northern Virginia, dozens and dozens of volunteers are cutting the wood, assembling the walls and doing all the myriad tasks it takes to put together an ingenious structure that can sleep up to eight Haitians.

The dream began with Denny Nissley, whose Christ in Action ministry specializes in disaster relief. After the horrible earthquake that crumbled so much of Port-au-Prince, Nissley wanted to jump into action.

"I began to pray and God said, 'Those people need a place to live,'" Nissley said.

Nissley had no idea where to start, but felt led of the spirit to call a building designer he did not know at all. A man by the name of Ed Lloyd. Nissley told CBN News that he found that Lloyd lived near him, had been a missionary in Haiti, and knew exactly the kind of structure Haitians need.

"He sat down and drew, and got it within 30 minutes," Nissley said. "And he took into consideration the climate, the culture, and so many things that the Haitians deal with that we don't even know about in America."

The result is a house whose pieces can be easily built, easily put on pallets and easily shipped and assembled -- all for a mere $600 each.

Now with a dream and a blueprint, Nissley still needed everything else, and it all came in a rush.

"Someone donated 15,000 square feet of warehouse, 10 acres of land, for six months," Nissley said. "People donated forklifts."

Volunteers also came in multitudes from all over the place.

"And we just had a missions team that came," Nissley added. "They wanted to do something for Haiti. And they came all the way from Ohio. "Thirty people came all the way from Ohio for a week, and they just built homes."

Project supervisor Miles Carlson has been organizing these multitudes that have shown up in northern Virginia.

"Working with volunteers, we found that it's best to keep the measuring and the cutting to a minimum," Carlson said.

But Carlson said the genius of the design is it's so simple, even amateurs can assemble them. And they fit the need of Haitians.

"Something that we don't realize is that they deal with tarantulas down there," Nissley said. "And tarantulas don't like light. So the light coming in helps the tarantulas to be deflected."

The open space at the top also helps heat escape. The slanted roof allows the rainwater to come down on one spot where it can be collected. It is tiny, but not so much for Haitians.

"They don't live in their house," Nissley said. "Most of them don't have running water or electricity, so you don't need to put a bathroom. You don't need to put a cook-stove in here."

And the homes are built so outdoor roofs can connect any number of them and form covered outdoor patios.

"That's where they can do their cooking, they can do their laundry," Nissley said. "They can sit around there and eat."

Volunteers have already made more than 500 of these homes. Nissley's ultimate goal is 3,000. He realizes it is an operation only God, not he, could have put together.

"Everybody's coming out of the woodwork," he said. "As I said to a friend of mine 'God gave me this idea, but it's taking the body of Christ to make it happen.'"

*Originally aired April 30, 2010. 

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Paul  Strand

Paul Strand

CBN News Washington Sr. Correspondent

As senior correspondent in CBN's Washington, D.C., bureau, Paul Strand has covered a variety of political and social issues, with an emphasis on defense, justice, and Congress.  Follow Paul on Twitter @PaulStrandCBN and "like" him at Facebook.com/PaulStrandCBN.