Entrance Torch

Rebuilding Lives in Haiti: Valpo Alumnus Helps in Earthquake Recovery

Micah Shields ’11 came to Valparaiso University with a desire to help others, inspiring his decision to study psychology as an undergraduate student. Valpo further cultivated that spirit in Shields, and he’s taken it out into the world.

In March, Shields, of St. Louis, spent a week building a new home for a family in Haiti. He traveled with a student group from Palo Alto University, where he is pursuing a PhD in clinical psychology. The team’s trip to Haiti was made possible by The Fuller Center for Housing’s Global Builders program.

“The opportunities I had at Valpo certainly helped shape the path I have chosen to take,” said Shields, whose broad area of involvement on campus included membership in the Sigma Chi fraternity and volunteer work with Habitat for Humanity. “Professionally, I was able to gain skills and experiences which have opened many doors, including allowing me to pursue a PhD.

“Outside of the classroom, Valpo also greatly encouraged my eagerness to be involved with service. Though I have always had a passion for service, Valpo certainly helped to foster a continued growth of that passion. Between Sigma Chi and Habitat for Humanity, I was able to get involved in several different types of service projects, doing everything from fundraising to manual labor. These experiences have helped me realize how important service projects are to me and how much I want service to be a part of my life.”

The Fuller Center for Housing’s team built a home in the city of Croix-des-Bouquets, a suburb to the east of Port-au-Prince. Since 2010, The Fuller Center for Housing has built 88 new homes in the country where hundreds of thousands of Haitians still live in tent cities that sprung up after the Jan. 12, 2010, earthquake.

“It was no doubt one of the most powerful experiences of my life,” Shields said of the trip. “Although only there for a week, I felt truly immersed in the culture. Our guide did an amazing job showing us as much of Haiti as possible.

“We spent our days doing physical work, building a home alongside the family whom we were building for. In the afternoons, we were able to see other parts of Haiti, everything from the mountains and beaches to the capitol.”

Shields interacted with the people of Haiti during his time there and also used his limited down time to engage in deep conversation with those who joined him on the trip.

“One of the most powerful experiences was visiting the orphanages and holding these children who were so desperate for a human connecting,” Shields said. “During the evenings, we were able to decompress and have incredibly meaningful group discussions and really talk about what we were doing in Haiti and what it really meant.”

Fuller Center Global Builders work in partnership with families in countries around the world, including Haiti, Peru, El Salvador, India, Sri Lanka, Nicaragua, Nepal, Ghana, and more. The nonprofit Fuller Center for Housing is an ecumenical Christian housing ministry founded in 2005 by Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient Millard Fuller and his wife, Linda, who also founded Habitat for Humanity.