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.
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 through Michael’s book sales and donations to the foundation.
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 habitation in an 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.
However, 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 in between walls build from small trees that are about three inches in diameter. A coating will be plastered over these by those who have the money.
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 secondmachine 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 below with EthicsDaily.com and Dr. Helms about Ricks Institute.
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. We figured if we could be taught how to use the machine, the machine would be simple enough to teach other “non-technical” people how to make blocks with the machine as well.
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. The more you do for them, the less they understand the amount of sacrifice that was made to give them what they have. 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.
A few 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. Currently, they have relocated to Hungary for one year due to the Ebola crisis.
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 blocks for the chapel. Once people see its potential for building other uses can be more easily explored, like making block for homes and churches in the community.
Any time you purchase one of the books from this website, 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.
Article about Michael’s Liberia experiences printed in “The Moultrie Observer”
Feature story in “The Paper” about Michael’s experiences in Liberia
“Hoping Liberia” book description from Smyth and Helwys
How to order “Hoping Liberia- Stories of Civil War from Africa’s First Republic,” from Amazon.com
EthicsDaily.com Skype Interview with Michael Helms about Ricks Institute
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