BERCY, HAITI — Disaster and economic hardship keep the country of Haiti at the bottom of countries in the West, yet hope still remains on the island nation.
It's been more than eight years since Haiti was hit by a 7.0 magnitude earthquake.
Despite billions of dollars in humanitarian aid that have poured into the country, corruption has meant that many of Haiti's citizens to continue to live in deplorable conditions.
While organizations work to treat the consequences of extreme poverty, they haven't provided solutions that reduce Haiti's dependence on foreign aid.
Investing in People First
One man hopes to change that by building builders.
Sherman Balch, the founder of Extollo International, said, "It's one of the most difficult, frustrating, rewarding things I've ever done. For me, because of my personality, the frustration is I want things to move faster. I love building, but we have to invest in the people first."
Balch, a commercial contractor, first came to Haiti just months after the massive quake as part of a mission by Cornerstone Fellowship Church in Livermore, California.
He and his wife, Cheryl were struck by how poor construction standards contributed to so much of the devastation.
Cheryl Balch said, "My husband being a builder, we thought let's go help rebuild. But then it became evident there were many Haitians that were not working, didn't have hope in their daily lives. So let's teach them how to build properly."
Extollo's Founder and its Director of Training are both active California General Contractors, each having built millions of square feet of commercial structures in compliance with some of the strictest building standards in the world.
Providing Hands-On Training
Extollo International has brought this high level of expertise into hands-on training programs, which also stress the importance of integrity, responsibility and other essential character traits.
Extollo, which means 'raise up' in Latin, began by using Haitians to help build several orphanages.
Balch said, "We have to build a construction industry and invest in the workers. We use the apprenticeship approach of 'learning by doing' and earning and learning at the same time."
Extollo International is a faith-based humanitarian organization dedicated to serving people and communities.
Haitian Alto Jean Baptiste, who is participating in the program, says it changed his life.
The Life-Changing Gift of Marketable Skills
"I'd been looking for jobs but I didn't have any skill. But I'd been looking for someone to teach me how to do things. And then I found Extollo," said Baptiste.
As part of the orphanage construction crew, Baptiste learned basic masonry, carpentry, electrical and plumbing skills.
He is now using those skills to take care of his family and help others in the country rebuild.
The Balches are quick to add the program also features learning about God.
Learning Skills, and Learning About Jesus
In the education process, the Balches believe there is an opportunity to share the gospel and lead people to the saving grace of Jesus Christ.
Extollo's projects include several orphanages, a children's academy that includes vocational training, and training adults in the building trade.
Click the link to learn more about Extollo International.