Reflecting on 2019

As the holiday season draws near, the 4Walls Project is agradecido (thankful!)

Agradecido for the unwavering generosity of our donors. We can report that our project recently finished casa #162. Another family in El Sauce, Nicaragua has a safe, sturdy house which replaced their black plastic dwelling.

Agradecido that our project has sustained turbulent  times. While we are very sorry that school groups still cannot travel to Nicaragua due to the U.S. State Department’s continued Level 3 Travel Advisory, we are thankful that students and educators continue to express interest in future volunteer opportunities. The connections they make working with our families is profound and life changing for them and for the families.

Agradecido for other volunteers who are traveling soon to help build houses — a group from SUNY Buffalo State Newman Center; 4Walls board members Meghan Haslam, Bill Stock, Colleen Dunham, and Dan Yawman; as well as 4Walls’ student ambassador Alice Yawman.

delivering materials for doors and windows

Agradecido for Pepe, our Nicaraguan project manager, who keeps 4Walls functioning at the sustainable local level. Our U.S. donors give to buy bricks and cement. Pepe and the masons in El Sauce make things happen.

Agradecido for another holiday season that will be bright, merry, and in real spirit of sharing.

Still waiting for a 4Walls house


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.