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Courtney Polk and Rachael Palm: Exec Director and Comms Director at Building Goodness Foundation

Building Goodness Foundation provides nonprofit construction services locally in the Charlottesville area, and internationally in Haiti and Guatemala. Professional builders, architects, and engineers volunteer their time not only to manage projects, but also to build them. BGF also pays local crews and workers to help complete projects, bolstering the local economy. The majority of the work is completed by professionals in the construction industry who donate or reduce the cost of their services to see these critically-needed projects come to fruition. It takes a lot of helping hands to make these projects come to life, and many of those hands belong to volunteers!

Tell me about the construction process— how do you decide where and what to build? We select our construction projects based on their alignment with our mission, vision, and core values, as well as their fit with our volunteer and contractor skill sets. Locally, we complete projects that will support the betterment of our entire community, and safe and sustainable homes for our neighbors. Our projects support equitable access to essential services, affordable housing, and local small businesses, with a focus on strengthening the local economy and racial equity. Internationally, we are working in Guatemala and Haiti. Our projects there are in support of education, health, gender equity, and community development. Our international projects provide access to critically needed services, such as secondary schools in rural Maya villages in Guatemala, or a women's health center or sanitation project in Haiti.

How long do the projects take to complete?

The duration of any given project varies widely. Some local projects that are smaller in scope can be completed within a few weeks (like building a new ADA ramp so a homeowner has accessibility to get in and out of their house). Some projects are much larger and more involved in scope, such as schools and medical clinics in Guatemala and Haiti. We just finished Phase 2 of the Pozo Azul School (a second classroom building) in rural Petén, Guatemala. Completing the full campus will take many years, and we are hopeful to begin Phase 3 in the near future. How are you helping rebuild infrastructure in Haiti post-earthquake?

BGF has been working in Haiti since 1999, and unfortunately has helped the country rebuild after 2 devastating earthquakes: in 2010, and just last year in 2021. After the 2010 earthquake, we completed over 1,100 small homes (“ti kays”) for families who lost theirs in the earthquake. Now, we are working on another ti kay program in the area of the most recent earthquake, to provide earthquake and hurricane-resistant homes for families who were left homeless. Additionally in Haiti, we are continuing our work in the community of Destra to complete a sanitation system. Our current project with this small coastal fishing village will provide a safe and clean system for toilets and hand washing. We also just completed a women's health center east of Cap-Haïtien with our partner Soaring Unlimited Haiti. This center gives women a safe, clean place to give birth and to receive care before, during, and after pregnancy -- another dire need, given that Haiti is one of the most dangerous countries in the world in which to give birth. Finally, our Incentive Kay program provides community members with small homes that are pressure-treated and hurricane-, and termite-resistant. Haitian families earn kays by planting trees, gardens, and erosion-controlling hedgerows; sending their children to school; installing water cisterns; and tending fish hatcheries. Where do you hope to take BGF going forward?

After a few hard years of COVID, we are excited and hopeful for the future of our work. We are well-positioned to continue our partnerships locally in Charlottesville and internationally in Haiti and Guatemala. We look forward to serving even more individuals and communities through strategic partnerships and projects that focus on access to services, health, equity, education, and community development. This summer, BGF and partner organization Limitless Horizons Ixil will finish another school in rural Guatemala (Colegio Horizontes). We have our next school project lined up and preparing to launch in San Juan Cotzal, Guatemala: Nicolás Fund for Education, a school that will offer up to 300 children from nearby villages a full-day secondary school option. In addition to our ongoing work in Detra, our new Haiti Program Manager (a native of Léogâne) is leading our Incentive Kay and Ti Kay programs to support safe and affordable homes in Haiti.


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