Bricks For Ricks Foundation

Bricks For Ricks Foundation

The Bricks for Ricks Liberian Housing Foundation, Inc., was begun in 2008 by Dr. Michael Helms to assist with housing needs in Liberia and other Third World countries where earth dwellings are a viable means of addressing the housing shortage.

After a considerable amount of research and talking with experts from around the country, the BP-714 Block Press, http://dwellearth.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/Earth-Blox-BP-714-Compressed-Earth-Block-Machine-Brochure.pdf, made by the Vermeer Corporation was chosen as the machine the foundation would endorse.

BP-714 Block Press

BP-714 Block Press

In fact, the very first machine to come off the production line at Vermeer was purchased by Bricks for Ricks. Among other reasons, the machine was chosen for its simplicity. It has very few moving parts; thus, it has less maintenance issues which is important for a machine that will be used in Third World countries.

The machine cost about $25,000. In addition, a trailer to transport the machine must be purchased. Money to purchase these machines is raised mostly through donations to the foundation.  All profits from Michael’s books go to the foundation.

Machine being unload at New Life Children's Home

Machine being unload at New Life Children’s Home

Because the members of FBC Jefferson were involved in missions in Peru, Michael did research and discovered the need for sustainable housing was just as great in parts of Peru as in Liberia. In fact, the oldest inhabitable continuous earthen dwelling can be found in the Lima, Peru basin. It is over 3500 years old. 1 That made placing a machine in Peru seem appropriate.

In conjunction with Rotary International, in 2012, our first donated machine went to a children’s home about 30 miles outside of Lima in the Andes Mountains, a place where the rainfall is less than five inches per year.

Clay deposits found in dry river bed 7 miles from the children's home

Clay deposits found in dry river bed 7 miles from the children’s home

With no rain, the clay content of the soil is almost nonexistent. Fortunately, a dried up river bed about seven miles from the children’s home proved to be the ideal spot for mining soil for the machine.

Adobe homes have been built in Liberia for hundreds, if not thousands of years as well. In the area surrounding Ricks Institute, people make blocks from mud and dry them in the sun for use in building. Mud is also used to pack the cracks  between walls built from small trees that are about three inches in diameter. A plaster coating of cement will be used by those who have the money.

Dr. Menjay, Pepe, and John Helms, dig for clay on the campus of Ricks Institute

Dr. Menjay, Pepe, and John Helms, dig for clay on the campus of Ricks Institute

Ricks Institute is blessed with a deposit of rich white clay near the river. This clay has been mined in previous years by locals to plaster their houses. Once dried, it’s difficult to tell the difference between a house with the clay finish and a house with a cement finish. A house with a plaster finish will last many years longer than one that is exposed to the elements.

The Bricks for Ricks Foundation donated its second machine to Ricks Institute in Virginia, Liberia in 2013. Hopefully, with this machine a chapel can eventually be built on the campus and additional blocks can be made for use for local housing needs. (Please see Skpye interview link below with Ethicsdaily.com and Dr. Helms about Ricks Institute.)

Blocks made by BP-714.  Vertical rebar is used in corner joints and about every 4 feet horizontally.

Blocks made by BP-714. Vertical rebar is used in corner joints and about every 4 feet horizontally.

Before shipping a machine to Peru or Liberia, a team of volunteers from FBC Jefferson came together to learn how to operate the BP-714 Block Press. The idea was simple.  We figured if green hands like us could learn to use the machine and make block, then we could teach people in Third World countries to do it too.

Because we purchased the very first BP-714, Adam DeJong of Dwell Earth, who has a lot of intellectual property in the machine, came to Jefferson to teach us how to select soil, make blocks, and build a structure. Adam travels all over the world teaching people the same skills we learned on the campus of our church.

Test build on campus of FBC Jefferson, Georgia

Test build on campus of FBC Jefferson, Georgia

We set aside some space on our church campus to construct a test build. Not only was test build an opportunity to learn how to make block and to build a house, but the structure serves as a permanent reminder that a 12 x12 living space is all the space some people have as a home. The big difference is that our house stays dry is is not going to break down in the wind and the rain.

My philosophy in helping people in Third World countries is to help them help themselves. I’ve seen lots of modern equipment sit idle because it broke down and no one knew how to repair it and so the technology was wasted.

Michael pictured with BP-714 after it was delivered to Ricks Institute in Virginia, Liberia

Michael pictured with BP-714 after it was delivered to Ricks Institute in Virginia, Liberia

Two years ago, God put Larry Stanton in my path. When I discovered that Larry and his wife Becky were planning on making a four-year commitment to Ricks Institute as missionaries, Larry as a maintenance supervisor and Becky as an English teacher, I sent Larry to Haiti for two weeks to be trained by Adam DeJong in the use of the BP-714 Block Press. Larry and Becky arrived at Ricks Institute in March of 2014.

The dream of Dr. Olu Menjay, principal of Ricks Institute, is to build a chapel on the campus of the school. Larry plans to train a team to use the machine to make block for the chapel.

A church within walking distance of Ricks Institute. Notice the earth block stored in the corner section of the church.  Bricks for the BP-714 would be manna from heaven for a congregation like this.

A church within walking distance of Ricks Institute. Notice the earth block stored in the corner section of the church.

Any time you purchase one of Michael’s books you are making a contribution to the Bricks for Ricks Foundation. Now that you see the great work that is being done to help people in poor countries help themselves, consider a tax deductible gift which can be given through this website or mailed to Bricks for Ricks, c/o Dr. Michael Helms, 221 Melvin Drive, Jefferson, GA 30549.

1 (http://fifthwindfarm.blogspot.com/p/making-earth-blocks.html)

Article about Michael’s Liberia experiences printed in “The Moultrie Observer”

http://moultrieobserver.com/local/x220122088/Helm-s-experiences-in-Liberia-lead-to-book-on-civil-war

Feature story in “The Paper” about Michael’s experiences in Liberia

http://www.fbcjefferson.org/files/55/Documents/MichaelHelms2410.pdf

How to order “Hoping Liberia- Stories of Civil War from Africa’s First Republic,” from Amazon.com

http://www.shbeta.helwys.com/sh-books/hoping-liberia/

“Hoping Liberia” book description from Smyth and Helwys

http://www.amazon.com/Hoping-Liberia-Stories-Africas-Republic-ebook/dp/B005GVO9VE

http://www.shbeta.helwys.com/sh-books/hoping-liberia/

How to order “Hoping Liberia- Stories of Civil War from Africa’s First Republic,” from Amazon.com

http://www.amazon.com/Hoping-Liberia-Stories-Africas-Republic-ebook/dp/B005GVO9VE

EthicsDaily.com Skype Interview with Michael Helms about Ricks Institute

http://ethicsdaily.com/skype-interview-michael-helms-discusses-ricks-institute-cms-20448

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