The Ripple Effect

By Rob Boxer, 4Walls Board member

Of the $2,000 cost, approximately $1,600 is spent locally on wages for our professional masons and locally produced building materials. The remaining $400 is for imported materials, primarily the roof. But the impact goes beyond that, because the $1,600 is pumped right back into the local economy on housing, food, services and school uniforms. 

Building a 4Walls house in El Sauce typically costs about $2,000. This amount includes all labor and materials. (4Walls administrators are all volunteers. Each and every donated dollar goes directly to building expenses.) 

Based on economic studies around the world, we estimate the ripple effect of our investment in a 4Walls house is a multiplier of 2.5. So, each house generates local income of approximately $4,000 which is widely disbursed. 

We hope to build 20 houses in El Sauce this year. So, the total ripple effect could be $80,000 of additional income this year. This amount does not include the living expenses of our board members and volunteers who regularly visit El Sauce. With an average laborer’s wage in El Sauce of less than $10 per day, this represents over 8,000 additional days of employment. Due to severe disruptions to Nicaragua’s economy, many Nicaraguans and El Sauce residents have been forced to emigrate to find employment, often leaving families behind. 4Walls’ uninterrupted building in El Sauce adds a bit of economic stability at a time of extreme instability. 

4Walls’ primary mission is to provide homes for El Sauce’s neediest families. We are proud to also create employment opportunities that help to provide stability for El Sauce families. 

Sandra and Marlon’s house – casa 148

Sandra and Marlon waited more than three years for their house. They are grateful to say good-bye to their old plastic hut.

Meghan Haslam

Meghan Haslam, 4Walls co-founder and former Peace Corps volunteer, was in Nicaragua in December to help build Sandra and Marlon’s house.

“Everyone got involved,” said Meghan. “Even 3-year-old Elder helped uncurl and feed wire to me for clipping. Our mason, Juan Dionicio, the ever-patient teacher, showed 11-year-old Jarison how to wire the rebar for the concrete pillars. Neighbors and cousins joined in too.”

“I think this trip will have a significant impact on my future career”

Miranda Milan

I was personally transformed. This experience is going to help me in more ways, probably, than I know or can say. I have definitely taken many of the lessons to heart, and I learned what I believe is the true value of helping another, simply because you can. That is not something that can be taught in a classroom—that is something that you simply have to feel. It is amazing what you can learn out there, and most of the time, ‘getting out there’ is the only way to truly learn it.

Miranda is a social work major at Keuka College. Read more about her recent experience with the 4Walls Project here.

With 4Walls mason, Juan Dionicio Blanco

“My trip to Nicaragua exceeded my expectations”

Jessie Hammers, a sophomore at Keuka College, reflects on her 2018 winter break trip with Keuka College. 

My trip to Nicaragua definitely exceeded all of my expectations. For one, I didn’t realize that I was going to make lasting friendships with people who I don’t even share the same language with. At first it was hard to communicate and almost awkward but as the time went on I was able to bond with the children and others through different forms of communicating like facial expressions and gestures and it was amazing.

Read more of Jessie’s reflections here.


Keira Donnelly — 4Walls Student Ambassador

Meet Keira Donnelly, who just got back from her first trip El Sauce. Keira is 13 and will enter 8th grade at Allendale Columbia in September.

While in Nicaragua, Keira commented that she hadn’t understood much about the trip before leaving Rochester. “Yeah, I knew we were going to build a house, but I wasn’t sure how it would work. I didn’t know how much we would get to know the family. I didn’t understand how emotional it would be,” she said. “I wish I had known more.”

Keira volunteered to be the person who makes sure future students know everything they need to know.


4W: Thank you for signing up for this job.

KD: I think I can help kids understand. I am good at talking to people my own age. We have similar interests.

4W: We love that more and more student groups are volunteering with the 4Walls Project. Your role will be important.

KD: I know. It’s important to get the message out. That will be my priority. I want parents and adults to understand, too, how moving this experience is — how moving it was for me.

4W: How will you start?

KD: Over the summer I want to design a plan with goals. I’ll do a slide show that I can bring to different schools. My mom is in education. We live in Victor. I’ll probably start there. I want to tell the stories — what we did, who we met. That’s what people want to hear.

Keira thinks she was her best self in Nicaragua. She is already planning to go back. Check out the video she created for the family and friends who helped raise the money for her own trip.

Why we go

It’s the little things. A student at Keuka College, Gwen Neuman traveled to Nicaragua in February 2017 to work with the 4Walls Project. Her images capture the beauty and tender camaraderie that keep us coming back.


The 4Walls Project will be part of this year’s Imagine RIT.

Imagine RIT showcases the most innovative and creative projects of RIT students, including their project to create roofs for 4Walls houses.


Keuka College students in El Sauce

#keuka2January is called “Field Period” at Keuka.

This year 16 students selected the 4Walls Project for their January field experience. Three families in El Sauce will be safer and happier for that choice! The students raised the funds and are working shoulder-to-shoulder with the Daysi Martinez family, the Claudia Jarquin family, and the Marta Garcia family to build their new 4Walls homes.

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Alice busts the stereotype


But our Alice is sunny, big-hearted, and fearless!

Alice Yawman, an 8th-grader at Twelve Corners Middle School,  was honored on National Philanthropy Day for her work with the 4Walls Project. Alice has raised more than $10,000 for the families in El Sauce, Nicaragua.

Congratulations to 4Walls’ youngest philanthropist!






Young volunteers reflect on their work


Hilton High School sponsored its third trip to Nicaragua to work on the 4Walls Project this summer. Seventeen students, accompanied by staff and other supporters, raised the funds and built houses for the families of Francisco Jose Lopez and Ana Cecelia Rivas.

Brenna Francisco

Senior Brenna Francisco talked about the emotional difficulty of the trip. She cried when she saw the badly calloused feet of a tiny boy named Michael. He had never owned shoes. She cried at the farewell dinner when she said goodbye to her family and to Alejandro, her translator. “He was wearing sunglasses,” she said. “But I know he was crying, too. We got really close to our translators and told them we will be jealous when another group comes to work!” Brenna said her dad is already saving money so he can return to El Sauce with her next summer. He wants to meet Ana Cecelia Rivas and her family and to build another house.

Nicole Bansbach

Nicole Bansbach

“The people are so caring, so friendly,” Nicole Bansbach, another senior, told us.

“The kids were super curious and smart. One asked me if I ever saw snow. He wanted to know what snow was like. We didn’t know how to explain it,” she said. “The kids were so happy when they ran into us on the street. ‘Hola, hola,’ they would yell to us.” Brenna talked about Ana’s family business of making manuelitas — cheese-filled crepes, Nicaraguan style — which they sold on the street for a dollar. Ana’s husband poured and fried the batter while Ana prepared the fillings and rolled the crepes.  (See the kitchen facilities for making the manuelitas in Ana’s photo below.)

Ema Stadtmiller

Ema Stadtmiller

“I loved the mountains!” said Ema Stadtmiller, a junior at Hilton. “Our translator was really interested in building up his English vocabulary,” she told us. “Somehow he needed to know what a rug was. I told him it was a little like a sweater. He was just staring at us and then I remembered he didn’t know what a sweater was.” She said the translators were great. “Alejandro made sure we didn’t get bored in the evening. He took us to play basketball and volleyball. Then these really cool kids just showed up and started playing with us.” Ema has decided to sponsor Ana’s daughter through the Ciudad Hermana scholarship program. 

Noah Neale

Noah Neale

Noah Neale was pretty confident his Nicaragua trip would be a good one. His sister had visited El Sauce and worked on the 4Walls Project twice. “She loved it! From talking to her, I had a good idea what to expect. I wasn’t nervous. I got to practice my Spanish, especially the day we went to Ocotal. I translated for one of the coffee farmers.” Noah liked riding horses up the mountain. He told us the unexpected parts of the trip were the most fun — like the pickup basketball games. “I wish we could have stayed longer and I hope I can go back,” he said. “I want to visit other parts of the country —  check out the volcanoes.”

"The work was hard, but it was fun!"

“The work was hard, but it was fun!”

All the kids agreed that the work was hard, but fun. Standing in the hot sun, wetting the bricks was Ema’s favorite job. Nicole’s was mixing the mortar, la mezcla. The mason showed Noah how to spread la mezcla between the bricks. “Then it felt like I was really building,” Noah said. They wished they could have stayed to see the roofs go on the houses. “But at least we saw the walls and windows.”

They were homesick in the beginning, but that changed. “As a group we got really close. We didn’t really know each other before the trip. The hardest thing was leaving. We all cried our eyes out,” they told us. “None of us wanted to go.”



Thank you, Hilton High School!!

¡MUCHÍSIMAS GRACIAS! to our long-time supporter, Hilton High School