Here at 1MISSION, we work every day to put families in safe, secure houses. Because poverty and insufficient housing are so widespread, we want to serve as many people as possible. But it is important that we do our best to serve each of these families the right way.
That means each family plays an active role in their own improvement. We are not here to pull people out of poverty through our own intelligence or money or connections. Instead, we partner with these families in a dignifying, empowering process that lasts months. At the end of that process, families hold their heads high, knowing they did the hard work themselves.
Here is how the process works for the families we serve in Mexico, El Salvador, and Nicaragua.
1. Word of mouth
Most of the time, new families hear about our program directly from families that have already earned a new house or are in the process of doing so. In many cases, the evidence can be plainly seen right there in the neighborhood. Where leaky, unstable shacks once stood, now there are solid, weatherproof houses. That basic measure of transformation speaks for itself.
2. Applying for the program
Families come to our office to apply for the program. To qualify, applicants must meet five requirements. First, they must own their own land lot. Second, they may not own more than one lot. Third, they may not already own or have access to affordable, decent housing. Fourth, they may not receive federal housing aid through their place of employment. Finally, they must sign a contract committing them to 200 hours of community service.
3. Visiting the family
Once the application is received and processed, one of our area representatives schedules a time to visit the family to interview them and make sure they meet program requirements. This visit takes place where the family currently lives, which may be in a makeshift shelter on their own land lot or in a place they rent from someone else. This way, our staff are able to observe their living conditions first hand. Our staff also verify land ownership with city officials before proceeding.
4. Orientation and training
The next step is for applicants to attend a series of orientation meetings at our office, where they learn about 1MISSION and the process of earning a house as well as a 12-hour training focused on the core principles of community development.
5. Earning the hours
Next, families begin serving their 200 hours through community initiatives like health screenings, continuing education, or community gardening. This part of the process generally takes three to seven months, depending on a family’s availability and circumstances. As you can imagine, families in poverty often work long hours at difficult jobs, sometimes far from home. In general, they have less free time than we do, so each hour they serve is a meaningful sacrifice.
6. Building the house
When families have met all requirements – and their house has been fully funded by donors like you – our staff notify them that the house will soon be built. The building process itself is a beautiful thing that brings together other members of the community as well as volunteers from North America or elsewhere, all working together to construct the house that a family will live in for decades to come.
One of the things I love most about my work is seeing this process play out time after time in the families and communities we serve. It’s not an easy process for these families to undertake. It takes a lot of hard work. But in the end, each step of the process is a building block towards a community where families can thrive. That’s why we trust the process.