Meghan’s Story

Why I was inspired

My name is Meghan Haslam. I came to El Sauce, Nicaragua in November of 2006 as an Environmental Education Peace Corps Volunteer. The inspiration for the 4 Walls Project stems from an encounter with a young man named Juan Pablo who grew up moving from one house to another. When he was in his teens, a nun who had been his teacher donated Juan Pablo a small piece of land. He and his brother built a house of adobe bricks on the land, but they only had enough adobe to build the walls halfway up. They requested some plastic sheeting from the mayor’s office, but to no avail. So the family made do with what they could find: cardboard, scrap metal, plastic, etc. It wasn’t a comfortable place, Juan Pablo told me, but it was still their own. They continued to petition the local government for help, but were refused. Then one night about two years ago a powerful storm roared through El Sauce and one of the walls collapsed. Juan Pablo and his family were grateful to survive, but could only cover the space with a plastic sheet. Due to their hand-to-mouth lifestyle, the wall has been plastic ever since. Although Juan Pablo and I were good friends, he, unlike other Nicaraguans, did not invite me to his home. The people of Nicaragua are proud of their homes; even the poorest will share whatever they have. After asking many times where he lived, and receiving a vague wave to the east, Juan Pablo finally took me to his house. He told me he was worried he would lose a friendship because of the poor condition of his family’s home. I asked other friends of his if they’d been there; most said no. After this, I discovered a similar situation with some of my young students – third and fourth graders who were embarrassed to show their teacher where they lived. In addition, the utility companies are reluctant to provide services to people with these unstable houses. Every person, young or old, deserves a sturdy home with four walls, a roof, running water and electricity to shelter and to provide them with a basic foundation for life. The 4 Walls Project is my answer to the lack of this simple need.

What I did

The 4 Walls Project began with a project proposal including descriptions of housing conditions in Nicaragua, building materials and a brief biography of the four families who were chosen as the first beneficiaries. While in the US in December 2007, I raised funds for the pilot project. After receiving donations, 4 Walls developed a contract to be signed by the beneficiary and the project manager. The contract states the beneficiary’s basic responsibilities, including providing the labor to build the wall, beginning and end dates for the construction, etc. Two families built one new wall on their house. Another family built two walls and installed a zinc roof. A fourth family received aid to rebuild the four walls of their house. All four families have completed construction and written thank-you letters. The second phase has been initiated with two more families. One family has already received and used 10 bags of powdered cement to complete a home for 12 people. Another family built a wall with the help of a volunteer from the US. They have since completed another wall towards their ultimate goal of four brick walls.

What I intend to do

With the 4 Walls Project launched and having seen success in the first round of houses, I am seeking a way to keep the project going. I would like to see 4 Walls become a sustainable option for poor Nicaraguan families in need of better housing. In the short term, I want to complete a small scale second phase of the project to improve upon the first phase. At the beginning of 2009, I hope to have a small group of donor-workers come from the US to help build more walls, see the fruits of the project’s efforts and most of all, connect with the 4 Walls families.

Meet Anna Etter Founder Widows of India project

Dear Friends,

A number of you have expressed the desire to meet Anna Etter, and to learn more about the Widows of India project which she single-handedly founded in 2008.

Come and hear of this current, true-to-life happening which will open your heart and inspire you! It is a tale that begins with the sad circumstances of many widows in India, yet your heart will be opened, inspired, and uplifted as you learn of Anna’s efforts, the success of the project, and her love affair with these wonderful and beautiful women – our sisters in India.

The Widows of India Project ( www.widowsofindia.de/?lang=en ) began when Anna came upon a destitute Indian woman lying near-death at the edge of a dirt road under a pile of rags along a dusty rural road in Tiruvannamalai, South India. Anna sought help for this woman from both Westerners and Indians, but was told “there is nothing to be done”. This – she could not accept! Anna went on to seek help for this woman, but when she came back the woman was gone.

Anna learned that this woman was a widow, and and upon inquiry and research, she learned even more about the harsh reality facing many, many Indian widows – that still today, they are cast out of their homes, destitute, on to the streets when their husbands die.

Anna’s thought was, “There, but for the Grace of God, go I!” It was then that Anna claimed her mission in life – to help our Indian sisters, thereby working to shift the consciousness of the culture, while positively impacting Indian women’s lives in the immediacy of their need.

This story of small beginnings, determination, courage, and love represents all that can be, when our hearts are open. It is a current, true-to-life tale of the plight of many widows in India – yet you will be inspired, and your heart will be lifted as you listen and learn how 25 elderly widows are now happily living out their remaining years at the Om Shanthi Old Age Home, and how numerous younger widows in the community are being helped with on-the-job handicraft training and educational programs, thus enabling them to be self- supporting and productive members of their society.

Don’t miss this opportunity to meet Anna! She is visiting from Germany for just a short while. Come and meet her on Saturday, August 20, at my home, where she will share her experiences, and information about the project, and of upcoming plans for expansion of the project.

So, please come! Don’t miss this! But – space is limited, so please RSVP at your earliest opportunity!

Where:
114 Churchview Lane
Pittsford, NY 14534

When:
Saturday, August 20
2 – 5 p.m.

(Snacks, finger foods and beverages will be served.)

Many blessings!

Paulette Elberti
585-764-0050