Bricks for Ricks Liberian Housing Foundation, Inc.
Hoping Liberians with Sustainable Shelter One Brick at a Time
The vision of Bricks for Ricks Housing Foundation, Inc. is to “hope Liberians” acquire equipment and training to create inexpensive, sustainable, earth block structures.
To model a “hand up” rather than a “handout concept.”
To be intentional in sharing the love of Christ in each community where an earth block press is located.
To place an earth block press in a Liberian community every three years.
To educate Americans on the importance of missions and the value of partnering with people of other cultures.
Our Core Values
Enriching Relationships – We come alongside Liberians to provide the tools to build sustainable shelter, which not only helps them, but enriches our lives through the relationships we form.
Human Dignity – We believe every person should have access to sustainable shelter for living, education, medical attention, and worship, with self-sufficiency as the dignifying goal of that process.
Responsible Stewardship – We count all that we have as God’s gifts and emphasize the importance of using available resources to make a difference in the lives of others
Christlike Love – We see people in Liberia as our neighbors, which requires a love that is sacrificial and compassionate.
In 1995, I traveled to Liberia with Liberian native, Rev. Olu Menjay. Olu was a graduate of Mercer University and was attending Duke Divinity School.
In 1995, Liberia was under a travel advisory from the U.S. State Department. Liberia was experiencing civil war. At the time of our trip, Monrovia was surrounded by rebel forces and Peace-Keeping troops from Ghana were holding them out.
During the week I stayed at the Baptist Missionary Compound, while Rev. Menjay stayed with family. Each day, we traveled around Monrovia and into the safe areas outside the confines of the city. I witnessed unimaginable poverty, hunger, homelessness, massive destruction, inadequate water and medical supplies.
On the campus of Ricks Institute, a large boarding school 16 miles outside Monrovia, The United Nations were housing 25,000 refugees.
Ironically, Rev. Men jay was asked to become the principle of Ricks Institute in 2006 and open up the school after the war, which had once been the premier boarding schools in Liberia. He asked me to join him in 2007, which I did for one month. I was one of the first Americans to reenter to country after the war.
When the war ended, many of the people remained on the school property and became “squatters.” I saw their houses in 2007 when I returned to Liberia to help Olu as he began to get the school ready to reopen.
When I saw the condition of the housing of the people on campus, God stirred in me a desire do something about their living conditions. But what could I do?
I thought about it for an entire year.
In 2008, I returned to Liberia with a team of three people from my church. We helped get the water flowing on the campus of the school. For the first time in 15 years, the school had running water and toilets. What a celebration it was the day the water flowed into the school!
While there, I attended a Rotary meeting in Monrovia and expressed my dream to build sustainable housing with some of the members. Afterwards, one of the members drove me to a house in Monrovia that was being constructed with compressed earth block. Then he drove me to the compound by the ocean where the compressed earth block machine was stored. An American was building the house with the machine he had shipped from America.
I took pictures and took note of where the machine was manufactured.
When I returned to the States, I researched compressed earth block machines. I made a trip to the factory in Texas where the machine I had seen in Monrovia was built. While there, I read an article in a magazine written by one of the authorities in the earth block business about different types of machines. I took note of one that was built in Pella, Iowa by the Vermeer Corporation.
I called and spoke to the man that wrote the article. After speaking with him, I decided that the Vermeer Corporation’s BP-714 Earth Block Press was the one I liked best. The machine was still in production and not yet available for purchase. It has few moving parts, no battery, and no computer. Thus, it was not very complicated, easy to run, and less parts to replace.
In Third World Countries, many machines are abandoned because they are too complicated to operate. This machine seemed best suited for a Third World environment. It listed for $30,000. The Bricks for Ricks Corporation purchased the first one off the assembly line.
By this time, I had set up a foundation, “The Bricks for Ricks Liberian Housing, Foundation, Inc.” I had already started to share the dream and raise money.
Once the machine was purchased and delivered to FBC Jefferson, we built a sample building on the campus of our church. Then we shipped the machine to Ricks Institute.
The idea was to find and train a qualified person to run the machine and train a Liberian team to build sustainable structures (homes, churches, schools) with blocks made from the earth and only a small portion of cement.
The story of how I found a qualified person, lost that person to the Ebola crisis, and then found another, can be read in the following story entitled, “Connecting the Dots.” https://johnmichaelhelms.com/?s=Connecting+the+Dots
Currently, we have two earth block making machines in Liberia. Jesse and Jessica Phillips are Liberia missionaries who have given much of young married lives to ministering to the people of Liberia. They have been missionaries in Liberia for five years. Their mission is called For the Lamb and Bricks for Ricks has partnered with this missionary team as they have trained the Liberians how to use the machines, make block, and build the structure.
In the future, the Bricks for Ricks Foundation will purchase a less expensive, less complicated machine that presses a block with almost as much PSI and use the same mission, values, and core values, and place these machines in the hands of other people in Liberia that will be trained to use and run the machine, thus multiplying our mission and vision.
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.
Consider going to the donate button on this website and making a donation directly to the foundation in this manner.
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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