Volume 1, Number 7
Extollo International Rebuilds Buildings and People's Lives
By Tina Hansen
When a natural disaster hits anywhere in the world, one of the first groups to arrive to provide aid are construction workers.
When the massive 7.0-magnitude earthquake struck Haiti in January 2010, killing 230,000 and destroying almost all of the homes and 250,000 buildings, the need for construction had never been greater. From this disaster, Hacienda-based Extollo International was born. Sherman Balch, who has been in the construction business for more than 30 years, went to Haiti a few months after the earthquake as part of an outreach mission by Cornerstone Fellowship church in Livermore. He was astonished by the sheer mass of the destruction caused by the poor construction standards.
Being a construction professional, Balch started connecting the dots on how he could help not only rebuild, but teach Haitians how to build their own homes. He created Extollo International, a faith-based humanitarian organization dedicated to educating people in all areas of the construction industry, equipping them to build/rebuild their communities. Balch’s mission not only rebuilt Haiti, it also reduced unemployment and stimulated the local economy and improved the quality of life.
After the earthquake, collapsed buildings defined the landscape of the area, and it was clear that Haiti’s lack of building codes were the source of the problem. Balch recognized that a whole new way of thinking was needed before rebuilding could begin.
Extollo International’s first site project was the Dezman Fleury Foundation orphanage in Leogane, Haiti. The quake had displaced dozens of Haitian girls at this location. It was during this project that Balch and others developed the "design/build/supervise/train” concept that is in use to this day, at their training center.
With Extollo International’s help, Dezman Fleury Foundations’ mission to enhance the lives of Haiti's forgotten children and enable them to attain their full potential will continue. Extollo International paid Haitians to do the majority of the work, which had a two fold benefit of repairing the building and stimulating the local economy. Extollo created a hands on trade school, much like an apprenticeship that trained the workers with employable skills in construction management, carpentry, concrete, masonry, electrical and plumbing. Construction began in summer 2010, and finished in June 2011.
The next, multi phased project Extollo took on was in conjunction with Okipe, a co op of Bay Area nonprofits, to build La Gonave Children’s Orphanage a children’s village for 150 more orphans. That project, which began in February 2012, was built by 67 local men and women and was designed by Balch to meet California earthquake standards and withstand hurricane force winds. Each 700 square foot home has concrete walls, with indoor plumbing and a porch. The second phase provided 10 homes for orphans and another building for workers.
Extollo has been able to purchase five acres of land where they have established an Extollo Training Center in Bercy, just 30 minutes North of Port Au Prince. They take 15 30 students for each of their training sessions; each consisting of 1 2 full weeks of instruction by a general contractor licensed here in the US, followed by a 1 2 week class project where they receive on the job training.
Extollo has trained over 250 students so far and with the Extollo Training Center up and running, they are on track to train more than 100 students in 2017 and double that in 2018.
To date, Extollo has given more than 150,000 hours of on the job training, built 21 structurally sound buildings, provided housing for 128 orphans, employed over 250 people on various projects and have been able to impact 1,596 family members of their students and staff.
The company also looks to replicate this success in new locations and bring their model to other countries. “We have learned a lot over the last seven years, but there is still a lot more to learn before we would be ready to duplicate it somewhere else. We know there is extreme poverty elsewhere in the world, and hopefully, someday we will be able to extend our reach to those other countries,” said Matt Bromley, Executive Director of Extollo International.
As for Balch, now 64 years old, he has no immediate plans to retire from his work with Extollo. He lives by the motto “enjoy what you do and you will never work a day in your life.” Extollo’s location in Hacienda is an ideal place for Sherman and his team to continue their good works.
“Being in Pleasanton means Extollo is surrounded by some of the most loving and generous people in the world. Many of our donors live and work in Pleasanton and give generously to the work we are doing in Haiti. Lives are being changed for the better because of them,” said Bromley.
For more information on Extollo, visit the website at www.extollointernational.org/.