HAITI – Sherman Balch and his wife Cheryl volunteered to go to Haiti with a group from their church a few months after the 2010 earthquake. That visit became a life-changing experience that led to the founding of Extollo, a Latin word that means “to raise up.” Now Extollo is a life-changing experience for native Haitians.
Haiti was already a poverty-stricken country before the earthquake. The earthquake made what was already difficult even more so.
The Balches volunteered for the trip because Sherman is a qualified general contractor. What they saw at the time was a major relief effort that resulted in the Haitian people continuing to live in deplorable conditions, without skills, without jobs, and without hope. They determined to help the people learn how to help themselves.
Along with Avery Pratt, now Extollo’s Director of Construction Training and Trade School Development, the plan to educate, encourage, and empower Haitians came to fruition.
The faith-based ministry teaches and trains people to rebuild their own communities. They do it by educating Haitian men and women how to build high-quality structures that comply with international earthquake and hurricane building standards.
They teach seven separate skill sets, including masonry, concrete, welding, electrical, carpentry, plumbing, and painting.
As they teach locals, they create jobs with actual building projects. Extollo has completed 34 projects to date, including a modern home for children who were left orphaned after the quake.
Job training helps individuals develop character. Job creation stimulates local economic development. Character development and jobs improve the living conditions of the Haitian people and give them a greater sense of dignity and accomplishment.
Balch told CBN News that this is “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.”
Most importantly, Extollo uses the training process “as an opportunity to share the Gospel and lead people to the saving grace of Jesus Christ.”
Perhaps an Extollo company T-shirt describes their work the best. You will recognize the beginning phrase. Make sure you read the rest.
Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day.
Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.
Teach a person to build, and they will
Build the fisherman a home,
Build a fish market, school, hospital,
Support their family,
Stimulate the economy,
Build hope and self-esteem.
- CBN News, ‘Invest in the People First’: The Powerful Ministry That’s Rebuilding Lives in Haiti
- Extollo International, What We Do