Exclusive Interview with FOSL’s Executive Director
This is a big week for Friends of San Lucas. We’re running a fundraiser for the San Lucas Mission Construction Program, and all of your gifts will be doubled by anonymous donors, up to $50,000.
We are hoping that you will make a donation to double your impact for the people of San Lucas. Your donations keep the light of hope alive for so many vulnerable families in Guatemala. Click here to give now.
Why do your gifts matter? Read this exclusive interview with FOSL Executive Director Bill Peterson to learn more about what the Construction Program is up to and why your donations are so important.
Q: You’ve said that a home built by the Mission can change a family’s life for generations. What do you mean by that? How does that work?
A: One of the remarkable things about decent housing is that it can improve almost everything for a family. Families are more stable, they experience less stress, kids do better in school. Even language acquisition improves as children are exposed to fewer parasites because they now have a concrete floor instead of a dirt one. So, generationally, this continues to impact the trajectory of a family for decades to come. It literally puts the family on a different trajectory.
Q: Can you give a specific example of a family that benefited from the program?
A: I suppose I could give you hundreds, because each of the last few years the Mission has built close to a hundred units of housing. I will tell you one story. A couple of years ago I was visiting San Juan Mirador, one of the poorer communities near San Lucas. Because it is lower in elevation, it is hotter, and there is more dengue fever and malaria than in communities higher up toward Lake Atitlán.
We were visiting a woman who was on the list to receive a house. Her house consisted of rusted metal panels for both the walls and roof. It was like an oven inside, even though a corner of the house was simply open, there was no door. The house was the size of 4 double beds. I know this because there were 4 double beds in the house, pushed up against each other, no space in between, and that filled the entire space. The entire house was a bed. She was sick and had a prescription for medicine that she could not afford. There happened to be a medical clinic in a nearby community that day so we could get her some medication.
And I think what stuck with me more than anything was how grateful she was for what the Mission was doing. She had every right to be bitter and angry for the lack of opportunity in her life, but she was filled with grace and gratitude. It just broke my heart.
Q: We’re raising money for the Construction Program right now. Why are these donations so important?
A: The Mission has magnified its impact on San Lucas and the surrounding communities, especially over the last several years. In 2021, over $2 million went to the Mission to serve the people of San Lucas. This has had a profound impact.
But we need to keep the pressure on, because I believe we are on the verge of a critical mass of development that will make the Mission and its work a model for organizations all over the world. It’s like starting a fire and we are at the point of getting tired of breathing on the coals, but they are just about to burst into flame, so we can’t let up now. Every gift is another breath on the coals.
Q: Many nonprofits build housing. What makes the Mission’s Construction Program unique and innovative?
A: There are several aspects to the housing program that are very important. There are three different types of houses, all of which can be modified to fit the space. The Mission is able to build on rented land or owned land and also modify the design to fit a family’s needs, like accessibility issues. I was recently at a house dedication where the house was what we would call ADA compliant. One of the children used a wheelchair so the house was completely wheelchair accessible including a zero-clearance shower.
The other aspect that we don’t talk about enough is the fact that a couple of dozen independent contractors are used by the Mission. This has a huge impact on the community, providing employment, vocational training and keeping local suppliers in business.
Q: How will donations to the Construction Program be used?
A: Each year, the 7 programs in San Lucas set their budgets based on what they believe they can accomplish. Then it is up to FOSL to fund those dreams. This is our work, the funding of dreams. And, in the case of the Construction Program, the dreams are simple, but life-changing: houses, stoves, septic systems, stairs to make it safer to enter your house, retaining walls to keep the mud and water out.
Q: What’s next for the Construction Program? What are you excited about?
A: The Construction Program is led by these two remarkable architects: Julio César Morales and Veronica Ajcot. They are both such creative, committed people. They could be earning 3 times the salary somewhere else, but they choose to serve the people of San Lucas because they are called to do this work. With them in charge, anything is possible. This year there will be more work in the area of septic systems, in addition to housing and stoves.
Also, after a study done last year, the Mission now understands what some of the needs with respect to the water systems in the communities are. This is a problem the Mission has been hearing about for decades and now it has the information it needs to start addressing it so that every community has reliable, clean water. This year it will begin work in San Juan Mirador. One third of that community has no water. This is unacceptable and will be changed.
Q: Anything else?
A: Just a heartfelt thank you to everyone who supports this ministry. In 2021, FOSL received more than 6,000 individual gifts. This is what powers this work. The Mission only exists because of what all of you do, because of how you care. I stand between two remarkable groups of people, the Mission leadership and staff and the thousands of supporters who keep it all going. Thank you for your faithful and generous commitment. You are truly the hands of God in a struggling world.
You can double your impact for the people of San Lucas by making a donation to the Construction Program Today. To give now and get matched, click here. Thank you!
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