When I was a child, I remember watching ads on TV about organizations raising money to alleviate poverty in developing countries. At the time I thought that poverty was something isolated to a specific country or place and all that was needed to solve the problem was some money.
Decades later, I came face to face with people who, at least to me, were living in unimaginably deplorable conditions. Even though I was now almost fifty years old, I still held some of the same ideas that I had as a child: that poverty was mostly due to a lack of resources. But as I spent more time, listened to people’s stories, and learned more, it became clear that money wasn’t all that was needed, that the problem is actually much more complex.
In the Old Testament we read that there will always be poor people in the land, so we know that this understanding of poverty is at least two thousand years old. Poverty that is caused by a crisis such as a natural disaster, war, or a global pandemic requires a quick response in the form of resources. But with chronic poverty, a long term, strategic approach is required, because the causes are less easy to identify or address.
When people think about 1MISSION, their minds often go to the construction of houses. That’s understandable, because houses are tangible and easy to see, and houses are the catalyst for the other, more important work that we do. That’s why we say that our work is about “more than a house.”
Ten years ago the majority of our budget went to materials and expenses related to building houses, but as our team in Mexico has grown to almost thirty people, a much larger percentage goes to our community development efforts. Each week, in addition to house construction, our field teams in Puerto Peñasco and Miguel Alemán conduct 31 classes and service projects. That’s a lot of classes and projects!
What’s more, this year, more than 30% of people participating in these programs are people who have not applied for a house and are not logging hours of service. We consider that to be a huge win, because what it tells us is that these classes and projects are adding value to people’s lives and are strengthening the community. So again, when we say that our work is about “more than a house,” we’re saying that the focus is on people coming together, sharing their lives, and growing in community.
When people entrust their money to us through donations, we connect their donation directly to a family (unless designated otherwise) and then report back after that family receives the keys to their new house. This gives our donors an opportunity to walk alongside house recipients, to get to know them, and to hear their stories. This helps us develop empathy and compassion, character traits that serve to impact our own families, friends, and neighbors and beyond. In this way, the impact of our work grows exponentially. Again, as we keep saying, it’s about “more than a house.”
Allow me to pull back the curtain for you a bit. Traditionally, when we would publish the cost of a house project, that dollar amount would include some community development costs in addition to the price of construction materials. Over the years, as the costs (and the life-changing impact!) of those programs have grown, we’ve needed to find additional money to cover those expenses. In 2018, when we switched from a simple, basic shelter style of house to the 50% larger FastBloc home, the cost of each house grew significantly as well. The pandemic has brought new challenges, with the cost of materials rising at a greater rate than we’ve ever experienced before. And we know that changes like these will continue to come.
I tell you this because we truly want partners like you to understand the complexities of our work and how we make decisions. If you are ever interested in chatting further about these things, don’t hesitate to reach out.
Despite the challenges, this is important work and we continue to focus on efficiencies, having a lasting impact, and being good stewards of the resources entrusted to us. We’re excited about what 2022 has in store for us, and we’re thankful that you’ve chosen this journey with us. On behalf of our entire team, I wish you all the best in the New Year.