From repairing homes in the 10th and Page neighborhood and Haiti to constructing a primary-care clinic in Liberia, the Building Goodness Foundation hopes to ramp up efforts at home and abroad in its 15th year.
Foundation leaders rolled out an ambitious agenda Tuesday at a kickoff event for 2014, featuring speakers from past and future projects in Central America and Africa.
The clinic proposed for Margibi County, Liberia, appears to be the first of its kind in the country, said Susan Goins-Eplee, who traveled to the outpost two-and-a-half miles from the capital city of Monrovia in January.
“In the week that I was working … I saw tuberculosis, rickets, worms, malaria and two children with mumps,” she said. “You just don’t see that [in the U.S.] anymore.”
The existing clinic run by Chris Hena, one of 56 doctors in the country, initially relied on a shower curtain tied to a tree for privacy, Goins-Eplee said. Hena now treats patients in a small, screened-in building in her front yard.
“There’s a tremendous amount of strength and hope and potential in Liberia,” Goins-Eplee said.
Replacing steps and concrete work at the Tashi Choeling Buddhist Center, fixing drainage problems at the Music Resource Center and finalizing an educational space on the Mattaponi Reservation are among the eight regional projects the foundation plans to tackle this year.
The foundation’s commitments also will extend abroad, where the nonprofit’s roots began, with co-founder Jack Stoner’s first trip to Haiti.
Since that visit in the late ’90s, the group estimates that its volunteers have given more than 115,000 hours of free labor to help communities at home and overseas.
“It’s a life-changing experience,” volunteer Antonio Martinez recalled, of a recent mission to Siuna Hospital in Nicaragua, which did not have running water. “The people we’re serving, they are just absolutely a gift,” he said.
The facility, which serves a sprawling community of about 70,000 people, had one bathroom, Martinez said. Used needles and biological waste piled up in the sun for days awaiting trash pickup or incineration, he said. The crew worked to develop a solid waste system, and Martinez drove to the state capital to purchase $5,000 worth of trashcans.
On April 5, the foundation plans to team up with about 200 students at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business to remake 11 homes and a church in the Charlottesville area.
“We basically take over Charlottesville for a day,” said Courtney Polk, volunteer recruiter and coordinator for the foundation.
Polk is one of 10 paid staff members at the foundation, which she said has a core operating budget of about $450,000 a year. The foundation expanded its local reach in 2011 with the hiring of a coordinator who boosted the annual number of Charlottesville-area projects from about three to eight to 12, she said.
That coordinator, Dallas Branham, said the April event is among his favorites. UVa students raise the funds and manage the project, he said.
Branham estimated that the combined amount of money raised and labor donated brings the average investment in each home to about $10,000 to $16,000.
“I’ve worked on homes in my own neighborhood,” he said. “People from down the street come out to help, and it’s really this big, community-building exercise.”
Polk said about 220 foundation volunteers work on local projects and 150 travel abroad each year.
“There’s some overlap, and we partner up with a lot of other great people,” she said.
Executive Director G. Kelly Eplee said that in its 15th year, the foundation has hit its stride.
“We’ve become a movement,” he said.