MIFFLINTOWN - The number 17 seems small when compared to tens of thousands.
Yet, God has proven over and over again that faith, not numbers, makes the difference.
So it is with Houses of Hope for Haiti, the Juniata County-run organization that sends and built temporary houses for Haitians who were displaced in a massive earthquake a little more than a year ago.
The organization shipped its first pack of 17 house kits in August, and in late October a team of 10 volunteers traveled to the impoverished nation to build the structures.
Their work days were long, hot and strenuous with 6 a.m. departure times, heavy loads to carry up and down hills, and end-of-the-day hikes through the rain to their ride back to camp, said Dwayne Graybill, a member of the River Church in Mifflintown who also serves on the organization board.
Early every morning, the team loaded all their supplies onto a truck that drove the team to their locations, Graybill said. Usually the team separated and worked in two groups, he said.
Of the team, most were from Central Pennsylvania, though only a few came from Juniata County. The team came together through the God's Missionary Church World Missions, which is a partner in Houses of Hope for Haiti.
"Most of the time we had crowds of people around us," Graybill said. "One place, we counted 75 people watching."
Because of the language barrier and only the truck driver as translator, Graybill said they did not interact much with the Haitians.
The houses are meant to be temporary shelters, built on foundations of houses that were ruined in the earthquake, he said.
"This is an 8-by-16 (foot) house," Graybill said. "That's smaller than a lot of people's bedrooms, and there are whole families living in here."
Not one Haitian complained that their house was too small, he said. Instead, they were very grateful, he said.
"One lady said this would be the first time since the earthquake that she could keep her clothes dry," Graybill said.
A number of organizations are building houses in Haiti, but so many tent cities still exist, he said, mourning that the organization's impact is not greater.
At the God's Missionary Church compound in Carrefour where they stayed, tents were lined up back to back, leaving no space for anything else, Graybill said.
Four of the houses they built went to families who lived in the compound tents, Graybill said.
About half the houses were built in Leogane, about 45 minutes from Port au Prince at the epicenter of the earthquake, he said.
The group left after building all the houses except one. A land ownership issue for the 17th house was not settled at the time of the team's visit, Graybill said. Since then, the family gained legal rights to the land and built the house themselves, he said.
Houses of Hope for Haiti sent a second shipment of 20 house kits on Jan. 31, said Lori King, a founding member who serves on the organization board.
When the houses arrive, the organization plans to send smaller teams in the spring to help the Haitians build the houses themselves, King said.
The progress will be slower, but Houses of Hope wants the Haitians to take ownership and pride in their new home through participation in its construction, she said.
King said the dilemma that the organization now faces is whether to continue building the temporary houses or begin constructing permanent structures.
In the long term, Graybill, who also serves on the organization board, said Houses of Hope does plan to transition to permanent structures. The decision of when is what remains, he said.
Representatives of Houses of Hope for Haiti are available for speaking engagements at area churches and the model house can be moved for display.
For more information, call King at 527-9985 or visit www.housesofhopeforhaiti.com.