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STEMM’s Recent Tanzania Trip is Devine Intervention: Saving Lives and Changing Hearts

Cover Photo Courtesy of the Des Moines Register: A school bus in Tanzania crashes into a ravine on May 6, killing 35 people. Sioux City missionaries helped rescue three surviving kids. (Photo: Special to the Register)

This is a rare and compelling story about our Partners at STEMM Medical Ministry. When you come to the end, if you feel moved to offer support please contact me at Ginny@abodshelters.com.

Greetings Abōd® Shelters Friends!

Ginny Shiverdecker, Executive Director

Ginny Shiverdecker, Executive Director Ginny@abodshelters.com

Many of you know we made a trip to Tanzania in January to build 10 Abod Shelters Partnering with Siouxland Tanzania Educational Medical Ministries (STEMM), operating in Mbuguni. It was an amazing experience building an Abod Micro Village with Ty Pennington, especially with a video film crew creating a level of excitement beyond our expectations. We made many close friendships with the STEMM leaders, Dr. Steve Meyer and wife Dana, along with Diane and Tim Bannister who direct the STEMM Campus activities.

The focus of the campus is to provide a safe and secure children’s care home and school that is sustained by a farming enterprise. The campus is also base camp for the medical ministry where college students studying to be medical professionals join mission groups to practice in real third word settings. Under the guidance of Dr. Meyer, they administer all types of health care in remote rural areas within a one-hundred-mile radius of the campus.

The Meyer’s have worked tirelessly to elevate the thinking of Tanzania’s leaders, to open their hearts to sincere US involvement to help its children grow up healthy, educated and capable of creating good productive lives. Lives that can nurture and care for the Tanzania of the Future –  to help it and its people get out of cycle of poverty and begin to prosper so they can take care of their families.

In recent years, the government has taken a hard stance on increasing help of the US on the position the country needs to rely on itself. At this juncture however, there does not seem to be evidence of positive change based upon this stance.

The STEMM Team inclusive of Dr. Meyer, his wife Dana and Board of Directors along with a group of medical students returned to Tanzania in late April. Part of these trips include experiencing the beauty of a game reserve. On Saturday, May 6th, seven of the STEMM Team were traveling to safari near Karatu, Tanzania, but were very upset with themselves for being over one hour late. The reserves have strict closing rules and once the park gates are shut at sunset no one can gain access until the next morning. The team was upset because they didn’t think they would have enough time to get through the park before the gates closed.

Personally looking back on life, many times when a delay in plans occur, I have come to realize ‘The Devine’ has other plans so we best just breathe deep and go with the flow. This proved to be true once again. The team, while upset about running late, were the third vehicle to come upon the most horrific school children bus accident in Tanzanian history.

Not thinking, we just acted on our training. “

Dr Steve Meyer

Dr. Meyer told me this story: “Miraculously, we had put together a medical team only three weeks before the trip and three of them were in our vehicle. The two vehicles ahead of us left earlier and did not have any medically trained passengers. It was just our van. The good news is our team was there acting as Triage Coordinator and First Responders who miraculously pulled three children out of the carnage with a heartbeat. Not thinking, we just acted on our training.

Unfortunately, while three were saved… thirty- two seventh graders, two teachers and the bus driver were all killed in the crash. The scene was horrific to say the least.”

Dr. Meyer went on to share what unfolded, “Our team loaded the three with obvious multiple fractures into a van which took them to the nearest hospital. They watched them disappear down the dirt road to what they hoped was competent resources at their destination. Amazingly, the next day our team saw a newspaper with the story of the terrible accident in it and asked the local newsboys where the children were. Once again, divine intervention was at play because the three children were taken to a hospital a few blocks away from the Game Reserve.

Understandably, the STEMM Team felt incredibly compelled to see the children particularly since one of them was for all intents and purposes dead on the scene. When they arrived at the hospital there was such tight security protecting the children, they had no hope to get in to see them.

Remarkably as they stood there wondering what to do, a well-dressed Tanzanian approached them who said he recognized them from their photos on YouTube and as Secretary of Health Minister he would be happy to take them to see the kids!”

Upon seeing the kids, Dr. Steve spoke with his STEMM Team and “it was decided to do everything in our power with God’s help to get them to America for the best professional body restoration possible.” Despite the Tanzanians government recent firm rhetoric that as a sovereign country they did not need Western assistance, incredibly they suddenly reversed this mandate. Not only did they agree to allow the children to travel to America but also agreed to work tirelessly attaining passports for the children and allowed their mothers to come with them. In addition, on the American front, despite the incredible financial challenges at Sioux City’s Mercy Hospital, they amazingly agreed to fully underwrite all the medical care required for the three children.

STEMM founders Steve Meyer and Lazaro Nyalandu, also a member of Tanzania’s National Assembly, visit the three survivors at Mt. Meru hospital in Arusha. (Photo: Special to the Register)

The Tanzanian government agreement came only after an astonishingly arranged meeting between Dr. Meyer and the vice president of Tanzania. After 60 hours of urgent, non-stop lobbying and phone calls, the only option left was to pay the $300,000 for private air ambulance to get the children to the states quickly so they could get the reconstructive care needed to offer them a life worth living again.

As this was unfolding for Dr. Meyer, an orthopedic surgeon himself, was wrestling with the agonizing decision of departing with his team back to America or stay behind to care for the kids. But then the greatest miracle of all occurred. Dr. Steve took a phone call from Franklin Graham’s Samaritan’s Purse. Mr. Graham explained, as-a-result of lobbying from Congressman Steve King, he was willing to do all he could to transport these children back to America. And so, it was to be.

After a 40-plus hour flight across the ocean and a full week of series of surgeries these children are now on their way to physical, emotional and spiritual restoration. These children will now be a legacy of light and a living memorial to one East Africa’s greatest school children’s tragedies.

Divine intervention yields a change of heart as the result from the episodic situation is the entire heart set and dialogue in Tanzania has changed from unbearable grief to exhaling Joy and Hope. The witness of love for humanity and compassion for these children is a paradigm changing occurrence and an example for the world to see and understand. It raises us above our difference to celebrate our common ground – our humanity. This is a stellar example of how together we can honor life as a precious gift.

We wish the children of Tanzania a positive recovery and salute Dr. Meyer, wife Dana and all those at STEMM for the incredible work. Your friends at Abōd Shelters® will do all we can to help you through this recovery and to help at the campus when the kids return to Tanzania. Readers please come back for follow-up reports.


In heartfelt service,

Ginny Shiverdecker
Executive Director


There are many options for private individuals, companies, schools, churches and other organizations to partner with us and make a real difference. Check out how to Partner With Us or simply connect to Ginny Shiverdecker at ginny@abodshelters.comYou may also donate to build an Abōd.

STEMM’s Recent Tanzania Trip is Devine Intervention: Saving Lives and Changing Hearts
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Alas! Seattle Takes First Step With Tiny Home Community

Greetings Abōd® Shelters Friends!

Ginny Shiverdecker, Executive Director

Ginny Shiverdecker, Executive Director Ginny@abodshelters.com

Last week my email in-box was inundated with emails from around the country calling my attention to an article appearing in the Wall Street Journal about an experiment going on in Seattle.
The article which I read over morning coffee as the sun rose evoked excitement although it is tempered with a healthy dose of cautious optimism. My heart skipped a beat as it felt like a small victory for many homeless. Private parties were stepping up. The headline offered hope.

The Wall Street Journal article, ‘Growing Homelessness Problems Spur Interest in Tiny Homes’ explores the issue well by providing insight not only from a negative perspective but from a positive human impact perspective as well.

This subject is dear to my heart. Our Abōd Shelters® Foundation has been advocating the role of Tiny Home Communities as transition housing for the homeless to city leaders across the country over the past 5 years. Many city officials are willing to open their doors and their hearts to hear about tiny homes like Abōd Shelters® and discuss their homeless challenges but the conversations seem to stop there. When we presented the Abōd Shelters® at International Builders Show (IBS) in Las Vegas we had many such conversations.

Jacques Hammer, Abōd Shelters® Manufacturer located in South Africa, having a conversation during the International Builders Show held in Las Vegas 2016.

Conditions need to reach a point of critical chaos like in late 2015 when Seattle’s Mayor declared the city in a state of emergency due to the random camps growing to uncontrollable scale. Every conversation with city leaders reveal a formulaic approach wherein they rely on a government partnership with NGO’s and key agencies to deliver solutions to help the homeless. It takes the private sector to ‘own the problem’ like the homelessness, for real action to be taken to help. Today it is left to the private sector to create ideas, the solutions and run the execution of a program to deliver the solution. Knowing this on-to itself is very revealing.

It is revealed in the article through various remarks that the Tiny Home Village is a better solution for everyone. I love the quote from Low Income Housing Institute’s Executive Director Sharon Lee;

“Business owners and residents are more receptive when they see a bunch of tiny houses.”

Sharon Lee, Low Income Housing Institute’s Executive Director

Our belief that private citizens stepping up to create Tiny Homes Villages is the first sign of a positive sustainable solution.

However, this good news was tempered with bad as the truth revealed in Los Angeles, Denver and Seattle when builder style micro homes appeared anywhere on city property replacing pop up tents and shacks made of scrap by the homeless that were removed. In Los Angeles, the city eventually returned the micro homes to the builder and told him to find private land to build them. I see evidence they see this issue as the charge of non- profits, all the burden falls on them to obtain the land, build the houses, figure out who can live there, how they fit into the SYSTEM and for how long.

When does government become an active part of the homeless solution versus magnifying the problem with disruptive action?

Statistics indicate every major city in the US has a rising homeless problem. The good news is many cities are addressing the veteran’s homeless population with the help of private sectors and NGO’s. It is the right thing to do, however that is just a percentage of the need. Local government officials continue to ignore one of the biggest segments as women with school aged children are homeless living under the poverty level but cannot get on their feet, much less find secure homes. In Florida for example, kids without home addresses can be enrolled and attend our public schools where there is a feeding program for all kids. Sadly, a high percentage, almost 25%, leave school each day to return to the family car to sleep and wash up inside Walmart restrooms.  Does that take hold of your heart? It does mine!

After much reflection my conclusion is this – By and large we in America have become experts at turning a blind eye toward pain and suffering of homeless in our communities. Our local municipalities are too slow to respond to their needs. If it is left to the private sector to do the work, how can we come together to up our game to another level?

Here are my questions for you:

  1. How can more NGO’s come together to align behind addressing the unmet needs for women and children? It is a place to focus that can really help?
  2. Who can provide land to allow us to build an Abōd Shelters® village?
  3. What will it take to wake up America to respond?

We at Abōd Shelters® want to help be part of the solution in America.  Won’t you help us make the right connections? Please reach out to me with your thoughts. May you be amply blessed in all you do for others in need.

Simple and easy to build, yet structurally sound design is the premise behind Abōd Shelters®. Photo credit to Jacob Sharp at Jacob Sharp Photo’s.

Photo credit to Grace Vander Weide.


In heartfelt service,

Ginny Shiverdecker
Executive Director


There are many options for private individuals, companies, schools, churches and other organizations to partner with us and make a real difference. Check out how to Partner With Us or simply connect to Ginny Shiverdecker at ginny@abodshelters.comYou may also donate to build an Abōd.

Alas! Seattle Takes First Step With Tiny Home Community
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Use Your Life Experiences to Help Someone Else

Greetings Abōd® Shelters Friends!

It’s a big decision to share a personal story. But when someone decides to, just the act of sharing is caring. Stories bring hope to the person who has not made it to the other side of their circumstance yet – who may feel isolated or ashamed. Personal stories also bring humanity to a problem that motivates others to help in a way that all of the stats and facts shared about the problem cannot.

There are many reasons why people across this country and around the world are homeless and there are many stories behind the Abōd Shelters® and why people choose to help us with our mission to provide affordable housing wherever it is needed. Some stories are from people, like Doug Sharp, who have witnessed the extreme poverty of third-world countries in their travels. Other stories are first-hand accounts from people who have survived homelessness.

Many times, we never get to know the story behind someone’s passion for and involvement with Abōd.  But Elizabeth Kandle, volunteer and guest blogger, relates through the following story that some people are homeless because they have escaped an abusive or oppressive situation. For them the streets at least offer freedom from their circumstance and the hope of finding a new path of their choosing – and hopefully, eventually a place they can feel safe and call home...

A Journey of Sharing Gives Hope

Ginny Shiverdecker, Executive Director

Elizabeth Kandle, Business Developer, BSB Design, Inc

Watching the sun rise from the corner of a doorway in a building in San Francisco, I look around to the group of displaced children who didn’t sleep again last night. What are we looking for as we wander the streets? An underground sea of music and art? How did we find each other?

There are now five of us walking the streets shivering with unsteady hands. We are tired, but we have no choice but to walk on through the day. Too smart for our own good, we all ended up in college as high schoolers trudging a path of boredom that led us to look for something else. Asking random strangers to help us with nickels and dimes for cheap fast food. Sour cream is a luxury. It cost a quarter, but that quarter could almost feed another one of us with tacos at fifty-nine cents.

That was twenty years ago.

Life isn’t like that today and I am ashamed to say I throw groceries away now without a thought. I should give it more thought. I let my kids play with nickels and dimes that once added up to a feeling of a nearly full stomach. We were not homeless by coincidence – some of us sought homelessness because we were not happy with what we had, some of us were not safe where we were, and then there was me who was just wondering what else was out there.

After I experienced the fire as a child, life was different for me. I saw and learned things at too young of an age. I continued to excel at school in a way that allowed me to leave the regular school set up and take things at my own pace, but this also opened a world up to me that I was not ready for or equipped to navigate. And I was allowed the opportunity to try and figure it out on my own.

Perhaps that is what makes me different. Perhaps that is what allows me to never give up.

Sometimes we would walk all day. Miles upon miles. Meeting strangers and asking for spare change for food. At night we would retreat to old buildings long condemned to make art and share our stories. Stories about changing the world, why we were different and what we each did to survive. Sharing our stories kept us going. From so many walks of life we came together to keep each other company and to give each other hope.

One of the girls was 19, had 3 children living with her father and was 6 months pregnant. She was deaf in her right ear and had a muscle disorder that made her clench in a strange and awkward way. She asked me to pray for her children. In my mind, I prayed;

God, please help give this young girl strength and courage, please hold her in your arms as she walks slowly down her path to you, please be gentle on her weak soul, may her road be paved with less heartache and loss than the rest of ours. Please help her find her way home.”

Elizabeth Kandle

Most of us were in our early to mid-teens and a long way from home. We found a common thread of faith among one another and believed that there was a reason for us to be where we were. We felt that we were wandering through a life that was always being met with resistance, but at least we were free. Not free of rules or breaking them necessarily but free in the sense of knowing we didn’t give up. Instead, surviving something and then experiencing the feeling of relief and satisfaction of accomplishment.

There is also a freedom in not having anything, but that is not met without fear. A friend told me the other day that my fear is very different from anything he has encountered before and it is in that raw emotion that I am more human to him. We all seem to hide that humanness. But it is this characteristic in my mind that can help someone else. Just like 20 years ago when sharing our stories kept us going. We can give each other hope.

Abōd Shelters® works with Non-Governmental Organizations (NGO’s) to provide housing, medical clinics, dormitories, classrooms etc. Many of the individuals that end up using Abod’s have next to nothing. One of the benefits of getting involved in our mission trips and helping with the builds is being able to meet these individuals first-hand and hear their stories. Their stories are true testimonies of survival.

It is in our experience that we can reach out with what we have, even if it is only an unsteady hand, we can still help someone else. Help someone else by sharing your experience.

How can you help?

  1. Partner with us or provide an introduction to a potential partner. We can make a greater impact working together than separately. We have been able to build homes, dormitories, medical buildings and classrooms as a result of working together. Reach out to Abōd® Shelters so we can partner and make a difference together! partners@abodshelters.com
  2. Get involved as an organization or individual through prayer, raising awareness or providing monetary support. We’d love to be able to share our Abōd® Shelters Story with your organization or group.  ginny@abodshelters.com
  3. Follow us on social media, like, share and invite others. Abōd® Shelters values the relationships we have made and we’re thankful for all of the support our friends have provided.

End of Day 1 building 5 homes in Mokopane, South Africa.

End of Day 2 building homes for Grannies partnering with Blessman International.

End of Day 3 building homes for Grannies, their grandchildren and additional children that would be homeless if not taken in by these wonderful women.

Thanks to Michelle Rothfus, Abōd Shelters® Project Coordinator for above 3 project images.

From Elizabeth:

I was offered an opportunity to do some writing for the company I started working with a year ago. I thought it was a nice gesture and it was certainly something I was going to keep on doing anyway.  I have been a writer my whole life; spinning the narrative, selling the stories, and sharing in an obscure and vulnerable way that somehow feels safe to me. I wonder sometimes which event led me to hide behind a rough exterior only to share the true intimacy inside me with people who I don’t necessarily know. It’s like bad timing I guess. I don’t trust people all of the time, but I do have a sense that everything is going to turn out. Not like some innate religious or spiritual concept, but the feeling that it’s going to be ok is deep inside of me.

One House. One Family. One Day.

www.abodshelters.com

 If you enjoyed this post, I’d be very grateful if you’d help it spread by emailing it to a friend, or sharing it on Twitter or Facebook. Thank you!


Abōd® Shelters, a registered 501©3 organization, are very interested in working with US and international organizations to leverage resources to provide homes to those in need.
You can get involved and help us build a sustainable Village of the Future using Abōd® Shelters through prayer, raising awareness and providing monetary support through partnership or become a Sponsor. For more information about ways to partner with us or becoming a sponsor, please mail your interest to ginny@abodshelters.com


Use Your Life Experiences to Help Someone Else
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A First-Hand Account Of The Lasting Impact of Childhood Homelessness

Greetings Abōd® Shelters Friends!

Abōd Shelters® values every donation and volunteer effort. One regular source of support we are most grateful for comes from BSB Design employees. Many of them choose to contribute a portion of every paycheck to our cause and others regularly donate their time to help raise awareness and money to make Abod’s available for families or to serve community needs, such as for birthing centers. We are excited to introduce you to one such BSB Design employee who has stepped up to help us with our weekly blog effort. If anyone blogs, they understand that keeping up with a regular schedule can be a challenge.

When we put Elizabeth Kandle from our Charlotte office on our schedule as a guest blogger, we were glad to have a slot filled and expected nothing more than for her to say what drew her to helping us or why she thinks Abōd Shelters® efforts are important. But the most powerful and personal story Elizabeth delivered, and you will read, was much more than we anticipated. We extend heartfelt thanks to Elizabeth for her willingness to share through her own first-hand perspective how being suddenly displaced from home or never having a home impacts a child and follows them into adulthood.

The Flame That Changed Everything In An Instant

Ginny Shiverdecker, Executive Director

Elizabeth Kandle, Business Developer, BSB Design, Inc

“It lives inside me. And it breaths. Big full breaths. Inhaling and growing. It expands. It has life and cannot die.”

It’s 3 am now and I feel it. I also feel cold.

I have small hands and small bones and they are tired. I have been walking on these same two feet for a long time now. I haven’t slept well since I was a child and I often feel like a stranger in my own home, or perhaps my home is the stranger to me. As I think back to the writing I committed to, the tears come to the surface. I think back to how safe I used to feel. Before the fire.

Things can change in an instant. You always hear stuff like that. You never think that it’s going to happen to you. Displacement.

What do you do with two children and no home… how do you keep it together as a mother and create safety when your life catches flames before your very eyes? What was my mother thinking when she sent us away after the fire?

Like orphans, we wandered around each day in strange towns and strange homes with people we did not know. With my twin sister as my lifeline, my mom tried to find someone to care for us after the fire.

This experience created something inside of me. I was in the 8th grade and I didn’t know hunger. I had never known sadness – the real kind that creeps into your heart in the earliest of hours. I had never lived amongst people that didn’t want me there. I had never had to make my space so small or had to hide inside my own body… trying to disappear.

We lived in an old home in a small historic district. We had just moved after my parents separated and the house we rented was broken up over 3 floors.

My twin sister, my mom and I shared the two bedrooms in the middle. I don’t remember the woman on the first floor. It was her comforter stored too high in a closet that was subsequently below our traditional floor heater that burnt the house down. We had left for school that morning just like we had for about 3 weeks after the move.

We came home to nothing. At least someone had saved the cat.

With her heart in her hands, my mother drove us to extended family that we had never met. A lot happens in a divorce and I quickly learned that the people that were by our side one time did not stand beside us then. As an adult I get it, but as a child it terrified me. People can leave? Houses can disappear? You can wake up one day with only the shoes on your feet?

I seem to wake up at this time of night more often now. This new house seems funny, and I sleep in a room with no doors. It’s not a bedroom, but no one was intended to sleep here until we came along. Confused, I stumble in the dark to the slider and see the moon. That’s the one thing that didn’t change.

Have you ever spent nights alone in your head… just wondering how you got here? How you really got anywhere? There seems to be so much promise in the world. It feels like a ribbon running through all of us and tying us together. Hope lives inside of me. After all that has happened, how can I not have hope? What I choose to do with this experience is up to me. I am strong, fierce and unstoppable. I know what is right. I know that if I take one breath in and out each day with stability in my soul I can change the world.

“Will you come with me?”

All around us are things that we did not choose and we are not always as charmed as we had hoped we would be, as we once were. Together we can take a stand.

You never know when a disaster or accident may happen where an entire family is uprooted, mentally affected and scrambling for support. The picture on the left is an image of Talent and his family in front of their Abōd Shelters® home. Two years ago, a tree fell on their previous family home and it was destroyed. See the full story by reading “Project Update: Newest Abōd Design Came to South African Family – by Accident?!” They recently had a baby and are doing well.

Abōd Shelters® understands that housing is one important aspect needed in supporting a family and getting them back on their feet.

Please help us provide homes to those in need. How can you help?

  1. Partner with us or provide an introduction to a potential partner. We can make a greater impact working together than separately. We have been able to build homes, dormitories, medical buildings and classrooms as a result of working together. Reach out to Abōd Shelters® so we can partner and make a difference together! ginny@abodshelters.com
  2. Get involved as an organization or individual through prayer, raising awareness or providing monetary support. We’d love to be able to share our Abōd Shelters® Story with your organization or group.  ginny@abodshelters.com
  3. Follow us on social media, like, share and invite others. Abōd Shelters® values the relationships we have made and we’re thankful for all of the support our friends have provided.

From Elizabeth:

I was offered an opportunity to do some writing for the company I started working with a year ago. I thought it was a nice gesture and it was certainly something I was going to keep on doing anyway.  I have been a writer my whole life; spinning the narrative, selling the stories, and sharing in an obscure and vulnerable way that somehow feels safe to me. I wonder sometimes which event led me to hide behind a rough exterior only to share the true intimacy inside me with people who I don’t necessarily know. It’s like bad timing I guess. I don’t trust people all of the time, but I do have a sense that everything is going to turn out. Not like some innate religious or spiritual concept, but the feeling that it’s going to be ok is deep inside of me.

One House. One Family. One Day.

www.abodshelters.com

 If you enjoyed this post, I’d be very grateful if you’d help it spread by emailing it to a friend, or sharing it on Twitter or Facebook. Thank you!

Abōd® Shelters, a registered 501©3 organization, are very interested in working with US and international organizations to leverage resources to provide homes to those in need.
You can get involved and help us build a sustainable Village of the Future using Abōd® Shelters through prayer, raising awareness and providing monetary support through partnership or become a Sponsor. For more information about ways to partner with us or becoming a sponsor, please mail your interest to ginny@abodshelters.com


A First-Hand Account Of The Lasting Impact of Childhood Homelessness
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How A Conversation Led To Tiny House Atlanta Joining Abod Shelters in Tanzania

Greetings Abōd® Shelters Friends!

Cover photo credit goes to Teresa Choi, volunteer on our Tanzania mission trip in January 2017, where 10 Abōd Shelters® were built in 10 days.

Ginny Shiverdecker, Executive Director

Ginny Shiverdecker, Executive Director Ginny@abodshelters.com

As I often do, I received a call recently from an NGO doing work in the United States who had heard about our Abod Shelters solution. While we had a great and worthwhile conversation, ultimately, Abod was not the right fit. But in the giving community people are often connected to other NGO’s in such a way that they can be mutually beneficial to each other. Understanding that Abod wouldn’t fit their organization needs, they knew of another organization that our solution might be a good fit for. That is how we came to be connected with Tiny House Atlanta.

I am very grateful for every conversation that I have because you never know what it might lead to. Because of this call, I met Will Johnston, with Tiny House Atlanta, a vibrant personality with courage and commitment toward helping educate and inspire Atlanta’s growing populace about the virtues of embracing the Tiny House lifestyle.  Life in the city is getting exceedingly expensive so coping is an issue.

We discovered his organization and ours had loads in common, even though the physical manifestation of the work his association performs is local and our work unfolds on different continents.  While the economic conditions between urban Atlanta and for example rural Tanzania, are dramatically different, the fundamental human dynamics that drive our desire to encourage tiny home living are much the same – security, stability, simplification.

Will expressed genuine excitement about our Foundation’s work in various parts of Africa so much so that he volunteered to join our next mission trip to Tanzania in January 2017.

Will Johnston, Tiny House Atlanta, joined in building 10 Abōd Shelters® in 10 days in Tanzania this past January.

Will Johnston with volunteers, including Ty Pennington, and local school children during the building of 9 Abōd Shelters® to be used as homes plus an Abōd Birthing Center at the Hospital. 

To my delight, he made good on his promise and joined us on his first ‘purposeful Mission trip,’ The Great African Adventure with Ty Pennington to help build 10 Abōds in 10 Days on the STEMM Medical Ministry Campus and in the Village of Mbuguni.

Will made the commitment to fully participate in all aspects of the Great Adventure Mission Trip. I can attest to it – Will did make the most of his three weeks in Tanzania. The purpose of Part One of the trip was to get hands on experience building the Abod. Like most people who fall in love with the Abōd Shelters humanitarian design, Will was intrigued about the build formula in relationship to our self-imposed mandate to assemble 10 Abōds in 10 days. This never done before challenge, would take a full effort by every volunteer member to come together and pull their weight.

As soon as Will arrived he jumped right in with full gusto and muscle. He drilled, carried, climbed and hammered, not to mention made us laugh, sang with us and cajoled the team just when we all needed it. He played his role within the volunteer team and with Ty Pennington to accomplish our extreme goal of building 9 Abōd Shelters® to be used as homes plus an Abōd Birthing Center at the Hospital.  Once much of the hard work was accomplished, Will joined us on a wonderful Safari experience in the Tarangire Reserve Camp with a memorable overnight stay the night before at a campsite one hour into the reserve.   It was the perfect way to expand on our friendships, relax after hard day’s work and share quality time together.

Photo credit to Teresa Choi.

It seemed during that first call potential existed to strike up a rewarding friendship but I underestimated how powerful sharing this Mission Trip could be in kindling so many connections for a lifetime.

When I asked Will to reflect on his experiences on the Tanzania Mission Trip he offered,

The entire trip was a life changing experience for me. I see so many benefits from participating in a purpose driven trip like this where you come together with common goals around building a Abōd Micro Village that really makes a difference. While you are contributing physically you are benefiting emotionally. Plus, you are making new friends and discovering things about yourself in the process. Allowing time to taste and be part of the culture and go on a Safari trip are icing on the cake. They expand your point of view. When you get back to the US you see things differently.”

Will Johnston, Tiny House Atlanta

Learn more about ‘Will Johnston On Why Tiny Houses?’ Since then the impact has gone even further. Now Will wants to expand our relationship to help us even more. I am happy to share Will has asked Abōd Shelters® Foundation to participate in his Tiny House Atlanta Festival in Decatur, Georgia on September 29th –  October 1st, 2017. We are working out the details of how we will be featured so stay tuned, especially if you are in the Atlanta area and want to know more about Tiny Homes and the Abōd Shelters® Foundation, our design solution and our humanitarian work.

We were all grateful for Will Johnston’s volunteer spirit, joyful personality on this milestone African Adventure Mission trip and especially his willingness to champion our message to those people genuinely interested in the many dimensions of the Tiny House Movement that Will is fostering.  Thank you, Tiny House Atlanta.   We wish you much success and are excited about working together.

A picture taken during the build of a couple of the homes that will be used by the local school. Credit to Will Johnston for the photo.

A picture of the inside of the Birthing Center that was built in the local village. Photo credit goes to Doug Vander Weide, Chairman of Abōd Shelters® Foundation.


In heartfelt service,

Ginny Shiverdecker
Executive Director


There are many options for private individuals, companies, schools, churches and other organizations to partner with us and make a real difference. Check out how to Partner With Us or simply connect to Ginny Shiverdecker at ginny@abodshelters.comYou may also donate to build an Abōd.

How A Conversation Led To Tiny House Atlanta Joining Abod Shelters in Tanzania
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Parents Elevate Teen Giving at Jupiter High Schools for Abod Shelters Foundation

Greetings Abōd® Shelters Friends!

Cover Photo includes the lead parents of the newly formed Abōd Shelters® Club and Board Members of Abōd Shelters® Foundation.

Ginny Shiverdecker, Executive Director

Ginny Shiverdecker, Executive Director Ginny@abodshelters.com

Ah, the great rituals of spring break to slow the pace of life for a few days. While many teens and families are enjoying spring break season with getaway holidays, it is inspiring to witness a group of progressive parents who are layering another dimension to spring break conversations. It is a thought process that attempts to discuss, engage and teach teens about the rewarding balance between devoting time and treasures to the personal enjoyment like spring break rituals and that of giving back to needy causes. This spring break while these families are relaxing and having fun they are also parlaying this into planning an adventure of a different sort.

There is a trend towards creating Charitable Clubs in some high schools. This is the case in one area on Florida’s eastern coast where there is a movement toward teaching teens how to be good citizens of the world.  To parents of these teens, spring break is a great time to talk about what clubs they may want to create or join because this is the time when these clubs get organized. They pick a cause and kick off membership drives.

After spending time with a special group of parents who participated in the first Florida Fundraiser for Abōd Shelters® last December, I have come to understand their vision and therefore what values they wish to instill in their teens. I am humbled and gratified to realize their passion for Abōd Shelters® Foundation as a cause they feel takes the Charitable Club idea to a higher level of impact. One of the tenets of our Foundation which resonates with parents that attended our Florida event is the benefits of Active Philanthropy.  That is, we advocate not simply donating money but getting involved first hand in where that money goes.

Like our Abōd Community, parents of these teens place high value on learning the right balance of life between living well and giving well. This is what resonates:

  1. Philosophy: “To whom much is given, much is expected in return.” Explore passion points to get emotionally charged up.
  2. Perspective: Be engaged in understanding the issues between the highly-developed world and the massive developing world. The contrasts are stunning. Leadership is required to navigate us well into the future.
  3. Participation: Be part of the solution by actively being involved in executing programs as this promises a great adventure. The resulting relationships and rewards can last a lifetime. As you balance work with play enjoy and respect the people, the culture and the environment as they are wondrous gifts.

The concept is for parents to help students learn leadership skills and the benefits of collaboration to reach an end goal: to develop a short-term fundraising program to raise funds for the cause. Teens complete the program with a check going to the cause. It’s a win-win for all.

Supportive parents of the newly formed Abōd Shelters® Club.

Supportive mothers of the newly formed Abōd Shelters® Club with Ginny Shiverdecker (far right), Abōd Shelters® Foundation Executive Director.

The current plan calls for three Jupiter High School Clubs to participate in a year-long effort.  Each club will have Student and Teacher Champions.

Each Club’s goal is to raise funds over an 8-month period to build an Abōd. Each high school will fund one for a total of three Abōd Shelters®. The students and their parents will then join the Big Abōd Adventure and go on a mission trip to build the Abod’s in Africa at one of the six potential locations where Abōd villages are in different stages of development: Tanzania, Ghana, Zambia or one of 3 locations in South Africa: Limpopo, Johannesburg or the Eastern Cape.

This is a very exciting new initiative for Abōd Shelters® Foundation. Thank you to these parents for their vision and belief in the difference we can make together. We will be sure to share more information on this as the program progresses this coming year.

  1. Generate interest and participation by fellow students to join the Club.
  2. Club member’s meet regularly to develop a fundraising program that they will execute to raise funds to build each Abōd.
  3. Will host a celebratory event to hand over the donation to Abōd Shelters® Foundation leaders.
  4. Teens and parents take the Abōd Shelters® Adventure Mission Trip in January 2018 with the Abōd Shelters® Foundation Team to build the three Abod’s and partake in the local culture, enjoy a safari and travel the country side to experience it first-hand.

So, dear parents, as you head off to Spring Break – consider the nature of your conversations with your teens. Perhaps your teen will lead us into in a new way to work and live together where everyone benefits more harmoniously?

A few of our volunteers from the most recent mission build trip in Tanzania where 10 Abōd Shelters® were built.

Many homes and a birthing center were built in Tanzania by these amazing volunteers. Thanks to Ty Pennington for the great selfie of the group and to Teresa Choi for sharing the photo!


In heartfelt service,

Ginny Shiverdecker
Executive Director


There are many options for private individuals, companies, schools, churches and other organizations to partner with us and make a real difference. Check out how to Partner With Us or simply connect to Ginny Shiverdecker at ginny@abodshelters.comYou may also donate to build an Abōd.

Parents Elevate Teen Giving at Jupiter High Schools for Abod Shelters Foundation
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Open to Opportunity: Blessings Emerge to Expand Abod Birthing Centers

Greetings Abōd® Shelters Friends!

Ginny Shiverdecker, Executive Director

Ginny Shiverdecker, Executive Director Ginny@abodshelters.com

Getting deeply involved with mission work in a developing country like Africa means never knowing where an opportunity may surface. One unfolding opportunity we currently are seeing is consistent with one advocated by Melinda Gates, Founder of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. It is in the medical arena where the spotlight is going on women’s birthing conditions and processes, especially in rural Africa where long standing cultural practices are deeply entrenched.

The facts are stunning:

  1. According the World Health Organization women in Africa are 175 times more likely than women in developed regions to die in child birth. Each year in Africa over a quarter of a million women die of pregnancy related causes. Although we believe many are not tracked because they are not known.
  2. An estimated 4 million babies die in the first 4 weeks due to labor complications but most die at home unaccounted, and invisible. Over 1 million babies are stillborn, of whom at least 300,000 die during labor. A further 1.16 million babies die in their first month of life – up to half on the first day.
  3. Complications from child birth have increased incidence of cerebral palsy.  A baby’s fate is to be cast out of the family most times left to orphanages and if not left without anyone to care for them.

The idea of establishing the first Medical Birthing Clinic in Asikuma, Ghana sprouted from mission adventures of Doug and Dawn Vander Weide, of West Des Moines, Iowa, working as volunteers with Acts 2 Collective. They began with the desire to build a basic medical clinic to provide care for ailing children of the community, many of which were orphans arriving at the Acts 2 Collective campus. While observing the situation when laying the ground work, it became apparent many children’s physical impairments began at birth. Contributing factors include no trained assistance at the time of birth, unsterile conditions or the inability to provide the right care immediately after the baby is born. If the birth is attended by a midwife, she may lack the knowledge necessary to help when the process gets complicated.

Abōd Shelters® were built in Asikuma, Ghana  to be used as Maternity Centers for safer deliveries and care.

Motivated by this insight, Doug and Dawn worked toward developing a solution that would be a two-pronged approach. Firstly, to raise funds to secure and build two Abōd Shelters® to act as the first Birthing Center. Secondly, to upgrade the mid-wifery education and training to modern standards by bringing in a certified Midwife Medical Expert to help train local mid-wives.  The plan has taken time to implement but progress has been steady. Identifying the right Medical Expert to complete the education mandate took time. However, now that the Midwife Expert who came from the major city of Accra is practicing on site, we are happy to share Asikuma’s local Mama’s and babies are now being born in a much better facility.  The flagship Abōd Birthing Center is now functioning and making a difference in the lives of Mama’s and their children thereby improving their chances for a better quality of life.

One good thing leads to another… In working with another medical ministry STEMM.org in Tanzania, it became apparent the birthing conditions in rural Tanzania are in as dire conditions. One of the primary ways the Abōd could help was to build an Abōd Birthing Center as an adjunct to the community medical hospital. We have a great basis of learning to build upon from our work in Ghana.

Inside the community clinic where a large room of beds are located. Photo credit to Rob Marish with Keystone.

Outside the community clinic. Photo credit to Rob Marish with Keystone.

However, you will see in the above picture the very challenging conditions of the hospital. Thankfully, with generous donor funds in place we not only built the Abōd structure but were able to complete it with key features. To start, the new Abōd Birthing Center is a modern clinical environment for Midwifes to help Mamas through the birthing process. Its features include tile floors, proper drainage, a shower and sink with water access and medical supplies for easier access. There are two birthing theatres with specialized beds and curtains for privacy. Donors contributed funds for the beds, while others for the sink and shower.

Abōd Birthing Center built in Tanzania. Photo credit goes to Doug Vander Weide.

The new Abōd Birthing Center was built next to the current hospital. Photo credit to Rob Marish with Keystone.

During the building process of the Birthing Center. Photo credit to Rob Marish with Keystone.

After completing the project, we welcomed Mamas of the community to an opening celebration. This celebration alerted everyone to the official opening of the Birthing Center. Mamas from all around expressed enthusiasm for its arrival and came to see the center first hand. They arrived beautifully dressed for the occasion to demonstrate and share the joy.  They lined up to do a tour to get a first-hand look. Village Elders addressed the women announcing from this day forward they no longer needed to give birth at home. They were welcome to come to the center to give birth with much better care.

Local pregnant women walking to the village to tour the new Birthing Center. Photo credit to Rob Marish with Keystone.

Outside the Birthing Center. Photo credit to Rob Marish with Keystone.

While in the early stages of program development, the Abōd Birthing Center as a concept captured the hearts of many. To those of you who caught the spirit first, donating to help us build this Abōd dream in both Ghana and Tanzania – THANK YOU from all of us at the Abōd Shelters® Foundation. We can see and feel the positive impact from the first step. With your encouragement and donations, we can do much more.

Now with our valued NGO partners, we are looking hard at ways to expand Abōd Birthing Centers in a program across rural areas like Tanzania and Ghana, where ever they are needed most. If you are interested in helping us move this program forward – perhaps you are a donor or have an organization that has interest in bringing a Birthing Center to your community, please be in touch with me at ginny@abodshelters.com. We are keen to work with you to advance this worthwhile cause.


In heartfelt service,

Ginny Shiverdecker
Executive Director


There are many options for private individuals, companies, schools, churches and other organizations to partner with us and make a real difference. Check out how to Partner With Us or simply connect to Ginny Shiverdecker at ginny@abodshelters.comYou may also donate to build an Abōd.

Open to Opportunity: Blessings Emerge to Expand Abod Birthing Centers
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Great News! Donor Advised Giving, A New Way To Make A Win-Win Charitable Difference

Greetings Abōd® Shelters Friends!

Ginny Shiverdecker, Executive Director

Ginny Shiverdecker, Executive Director Ginny@abodshelters.com

May I share a short story? Today was not my typical day. I usually really enjoy donating my time to Abod Shelters Foundation no matter what challenges we encounter. I am wired to tackle tough problems and overcome them. I feel blessed to be sharing this mission with a special group of volunteers with such character and commitment, as it keeps me joyful and smiling because I have seen the real benefits of our labor in the faces of the women and children who benefit from living in their first stable home – an Abod. However, today I came upon some pain points stemming from the complexities of directing our daily efforts, I found myself unable to muster a smile.

The act of lighting a candle and saying a prayer of thankfulness can usually jump start my positive spirit so I went about doing so while pondering over an issue while sitting in my home office waiting for the transformation to take effect. My husband passed my door to take a short walk to our mail box and returned offering me an envelope, handwritten, addressed to me. Hmmmm… Today, very few people send paper letters so I wondered who it might be from as no return address was apparent.

With my favorite letter opener in hand, I gently edged the seal to find a lovely handwritten note. Surprisingly, enclosed was a check written to Abōd Shelters® Foundation with a very generous donation figure. Well that melted my heart in a moment! My frown turned upside down into a big smile.  It is an unexpected gesture of selfless giving like this that rocks my world. It was a sign of encouragement from on high when I needed it most. Acts of kindness like this do inspire me to continue to fight the good fight for those poverty-stricken women and children who need and deserve safe, secure shelter to have a reasonable lifestyle.

While taking a short break from building we came across children standing against their mud home in a nearby village. Photo credit to Teresa Choi.

Thank you to the special donor who sent it. They know who they are if they are reading this. Your act urged me to write this post now rather than wait for another day.

Working together building 10 Abod’s in 10 days in Tanzania.

At Abōd Shelters® Foundation I often feel I cannot say THANK YOU to our generous donors enough for their financial gifts. We have two very valuable donor groups that are the lifeblood of our nonprofit work. My heartfelt appreciation goes out to our long-standing donors as they keep both ongoing and start up projects funded. At the same time, I am encouraged by the new donors who have come into our community over the past year by way of various fundraisers we are hosting. These good-hearted people add new ideas to our efforts, energy to our activities and motivate us to keep moving forward with our mission. I do believe all these individuals are Angels of Mercy who are sent to us to make sure we keep the spirit alive.

Here is the great news. For those of you who currently are donating your hard-earned treasure to causes you are passionate about which are operated by Foundation’s like ours, there is now an innovative way to do it that is gaining attention that I want to make you aware of. I for one wish I had been informed of it in 2016, but now that I am aware of how its functions I certainly will activate it in 2017 as I personally donate to Abōd Shelters® Foundation.

Nonprofits are now working to ensure that donors have a say in where their money goes and that their donations have the maximum impact. The concept is called Donor–advised Giving via Donor-advised Funds.

Each philanthropic organization like Abōd Shelters® Foundation, works with donors in its own way, but several utilize donor- advised funds, established at public charities. They have become the fastest growing charitable giving vehicle, now accounting for more than 3 per cent of charitable giving in the United States. They offer tax benefits and allow donors oversight of how money is dispensed. To provide insight on how they work, I sourced the primer from the National Philanthropic Trust:

  • The donor makes a irrevocable gift to the fund. For example, it could be cash or proceeds from sold stock
  • The donor immediately receives the maximum tax deduction under IRS rules
  • The donor names advisors, successors or charitable beneficiaries connected to the fund
  • The gift is placed into the fund account, where it can be invested and grow, free of tax
  • The donor can allocate money from the fund at any point to be used as a grant to qualified charities

If you are interested in learning more about Donor –advised Giving via Donor Advised Funds you can contact your personal financial advisor, your family accountant or reach out to me about how you can participate with Abōd Shelters® Foundation in this manner.

Our ambition at Abōd Shelters® is to offer our donors transparency into where their gifts are going. You can participate with us in many ways that will give you the peace of mind that your donation is being used effectively to change lives. For example Chris Gardner, Founder of Bella Homes, can tell you exactly where his donation went because he looked in the faces of the children who are now living in a suitable home – he built the Abōd Shelters® with his own hands along with his team from their company.

Now that I have shared this great news with you, my spirit is fully restored.

In heartfelt service,

Ginny Shiverdecker
Executive Director

Everyone pitches in on getting the frames up and siding started including myself, Ginny Shiverdecker.


There are many options for private individuals, companies, schools, churches and other organizations to partner with us and make a real difference. Check out how to Partner With Us or simply connect to Ginny Shiverdecker at ginny@abodshelters.comYou may also donate to build an Abōd.


Great News! Donor Advised Giving, A New Way To Make A Win-Win Charitable Difference
read more

Introducing Abod Shelters ‘Mission to Build Better Lives’ Adventure Trips to Africa

Greetings Abōd® Shelters Friends!

Thanks so much to the Abōd Shelters® build volunteers, STEMM team and Rob Marish at Keystone Pictures for all of the pictures!

Ginny Shiverdecker, Executive Director

Ginny Shiverdecker, Executive Director Ginny@abodshelters.com

Destination Tanzania marks the launch of our Abod Shelters ‘Mission to Build Better Lives’ Adventure Trip Experiences. In early January, a diverse group of volunteers with shared purpose, endured 24 hours of travel to partake in a unique opportunity to make a difference in the lives of the Maasai Tribe located in a remote village of Mbuguni.

A trip of this nature is close to my heart. An Adventure Travel offering to do good is something we felt could become a hallmark of involvement in the Abōd Shelters® Foundation, a catalyst for creating a special bond amongst our donor and volunteer community. I had the chance to witness this engagement unfold on this recent magical mission trip dedicated to building our first Abod Micro Village for our newest NGO partner, STEMM.org – a medical ministry with a 20-year record of credibility in the region.

As partners, we agreed to set an extreme challenge; to build 10 Abods in 10 days as a dramatic way to prove the Abōd Shelters® value proposition. Abōd homes can be built faster, better, cheaper than traditional block housing in Africa. This endeavor demonstrates, for NGO’s interested in building structures, that by embracing the Abōd Shelters® way together we can deliver a more satisfying solution for all parties involved. It is a winning project for;

  • the NGO who desires to provide the shelters,
  • for the local tribe’s families, women and children who are beneficiaries of the Abōds,
  • for the local leaders of the tribe and community where they can see tangible, lasting outcomes in service to their people and,
  • for our Abod Shelters Foundation leaders and volunteers who set out to provide this unique humanitarian design to help improve the living conditions of one third of the world’s underserved population living under the poverty lines.

It is in striking the right balance of good outcomes for all we value most.

For volunteers who want to know more, our Abōd Shelters® Mission Adventure Trips are designed to deliver a memorable experience in three important ways:

  1. Purposeful Platform: A scalable building project offering hands-on experience assembling Abōds while being part of a team constructing an entire micro village of Abōds.
  2. Authentic Experience in Local Africa Culture: Not only seeing the beautiful landscape but also experiencing the tastes, arts, music and natural world in specific countries like Ghana, Tanzania, Zambia and areas of South Africa. It can include Safari’s, Urban Market Shopping, Hunting Adventures or Exotic Surf Beach Excursions and more.
  3. Right Atmosphere: Chances to forge new relationships and bonding with people from different walks of life who share common values. Because being a part of something needed that is long-lasting for someone else’s benefit, opens hearts.

Some trips will take the experience to the next level as this one did. The excitement on this Abōd Shelters® ‘Mission to Build Better Lives’ Adventure Trip to Africa was enhanced by having Celebrity Ty Pennington (of Extreme Makeover fame) who is also our Goodwill Ambassador join our Team of Volunteers.

To us, Ty is a ‘Prince of a Guy’! Not only did Ty and his manager help raise funds to build 5 of the homes in the Abōd Micro Village but Ty also joined us because he too wanted to have the hands-on experience of building Abōds and work side by side with our volunteers.

All work and no play does not feed the soul. Ty and our volunteers set building time line goals and when we met the team’s self-imposed deadlines we balanced work time with play time. Indeed, the building goals were met so we headed out for an African Adventure Part 2: Safari Tanzania Style featuring Tarengeri Reserve. With the help of Duma Explorer escorting us and providing the entire safari tour, we trucked two Land Rovers one hour deep into the reserve for an overnight stay at Balloon Tent Camp where the next day’s grand tour of the animal kingdom took place.

We were thrilled as we arrived into the park just before it closed. As we ventured deep into the reserve, animals that were migrating to watering holes came across our dirt trail thrilling us with their close-proximity. Darkness fell just as we arrived at the campgrounds.  Our camp hosts offered a very welcoming reception where we checked in and were given the camp tent accommodations and dinner plans for the night. Lovely, comfortable tents with all the right amenities were home for the night. As this is open range for the animals, we were escorted to and from our tents for dinner. We enjoyed cocktails and wine around a roaring campfire where we relaxed and gazed into the brilliantly twinkling night sky. The dinner bell chimed calling us to enjoy the well-appointed buffet dinner. Laughter abounded into the night as we exchanged stories and played games to get to know each other better. Midnight passed and we all decided the magic spell of the evening required sleep as we would be up at 6:30 am for breakfast and safari. Morning came quickly but it had been a restful night even if it was just for a few short hours.

Words cannot describe the brilliance of the 10-hour day we spent together among these rare and beautiful animals in their natural habitat. The landscape was as interesting and breath taking as the animals themselves. I was especially taken by the magnificence of the trees; the romantic shapes and their sheer scope and size are burned into my brain. It captured my heart with a lifetime of memories especially because I experienced it with my Abōd Community.

Everyone raved about our play day as another dimension of the trip. A quote from Will Johnston, Founder Tiny Home Atlanta Association who joined us on his first mission trip:

I am forever changed by this experience. I would have never guessed it could be so amazing and I would meet such interesting people I now calls friends for life.

What more can be said after that? Won’t you consider joining us on one of our next trips? Contact me at ginny@abodshelters.com if you want to become part of our Abōd Community.


In heartfelt service,

Ginny Shiverdecker
Executive Director


There are many options for private individuals, companies, schools, churches and other organizations to partner with us and make a real difference. Check out how to Partner With Us or simply connect to Ginny Shiverdecker at ginny@abodshelters.comYou may also donate to build an Abōd.

Introducing Abod Shelters ‘Mission to Build Better Lives’ Adventure Trips to Africa
read more

Part 2: Tanzania Abod Shelters Micro Village Build Accomplished with Bella Homes Volunteer Teamwork!

Greetings Abōd® Shelters Friends!

Ginny Shiverdecker, Executive Director

Ginny Shiverdecker, Executive Director Ginny@abodshelters.com

Filled with anticipation for what was to come I took the 30 hours of travel time bound for Kilimanjaro, Tanzania in stride, but each passing mile fueled my energy levels.

Building our first Micro Village in Tanzania is a big dream come true with the help of Souixland Tanzania Educational Medical Ministries (STEMM) who provided us the opportunity to make it happen. Not only would we be building seven shelters as homes for the organization’s dedicated local Maasai workers, we were also building their first Birthing Center at the small hospital in Mbuguni and two Abod’s as Teacher’s Housing at the local school located between the hospital and the STEMM campus.

This would mean building 10 Abod’s in 10 days! This is the result of over one year of dreaming of the possibility and six months of diligent planning in collaboration with Dr. Steve Meyer and his wife Dana along with Tanzania campus director Diane Bannister and husband Tim.  Now the process was set in motion to make it happen. No turning back now.

It was an ambitious undertaking yet we felt it was time to prove that the premise of the Abōd Shelters® Lifestyle Village could be delivered faster, better, cheaper than traditional housing.  It would call for a dramatic demonstration to prove our product offering and service model.

We stepped out of our comfort zone to set a BHAG – Big Harry Audacious Goal!  Now we needed to make it happen.  Having worked in the creative industry for most of my career, I experienced time and again the many challenges of major productions around the world – starting with a vision on paper, then making it real for the world on deadline, is hard work yet rewarding. But doing it professionally is one thing. Doing it for an NGO where financial measures are always at play is a challenge that would call for patience, courage, team work and donors who believe in our purpose to democratize housing for the worlds neediest populations.

Our Bella Homes Volunteers from Huxley, IA USA with Ginny Shiverdecker, Abod Shelters Foundation Executive DIrector.

Bella Homes Volunteers taking a quick break while building one of the Birthing Centers.

This is our first Mission trip of such magnitude. We wanted everyone to have a meaningful and memorable trip with the right balance of work and play. It is our goal to set the right tone with anyone who volunteers to join an Abōd Shelters® build. A total of 30 people came together around this project with most meeting for the first time. This coupled with unfamiliar locations, celebrity guest, Ty Pennington our Ambassador, joining the build along with talented video production people would call for major focus and juggling of priorities. I am up for it, now worries.

As I flew over the Atlantic Ocean from Atlanta to Amsterdam, sleep eluded me. Many unanswerable questions rolled around in my head:

  • Would everyone on this mission trip make it to the STEMM Campus without delay?
  • Would they embrace their new team mates long enough to get the job done?
  • Would all the vital materials be there on time as one container was delayed in port?
  • Would the locals embrace working with our team on the Abod’s and take to the type of work?
  • Would there be time for a safari adventure for the people coming to Africa for the first time?

These are the large trucks leaving Johannesburg, Africa with the shipping containers full of Abōd Shelters® destined for Tanzania!

Two completed homes that will be used by teachers for the local school.

Through experience we know the saying TIA – This Is Africa. No matter how well you plan contingencies, things move forward with very different methods and timing than we Americans are accustomed to.

Our Foundation Chairman, Doug Vander Weide with Valiant Wealth, and I worked together closely to organize the many aspects of the build with our hosts.  We already know these are tremendous people at STEMM who have achieved great things over their 20 years of work to help Tanzania. So with great heart, can-do spirit and a belief that anything is possible, we let go and let God guide us.

Once I arrived and met everyone face to face, my questions began to dissolve into thin air. This was a diverse group of people coming from all walks of life, yet we shared a common bond around our belief in Abod’s purpose. The Abod could have a transformative effect on the country of Tanzania. It is a point of pride for everyone present to build the first Micro Village to support Dr. Steve Meyer and his wife Dana to honor their past, present and future endeavors to help. Every volunteer brought their best self to the experience and a willingness to do whatever it took to get the job done. Everyone was ready to do their part to build 10 Abods in 10 days. Once we started working, the project built momentum and carried through to a successful completion.

Abod’s being built on the STEMM Campus for teachers and workers with the help of Ty Pennington.

An aerial picture of some of the Abod’s built on the STEMM Campus for teachers and workers.

In this post, I would like to give a special shout out to Chris Gardner, Founder of Bella Executive Homes in Huxley, IA USA and his partner Mark DeYoung who funded the way for their amazing professional team of building experts to help get the job done.

It’s the good heart, talent and hard work of the volunteers that made the building of 10 Abod’s in 10 days successful.

My heartfelt THANK YOU to these great guys and new friends:

  • Barry Engelman
  • Dan Overman
  • Grant Tjemagel
  • Jordan Ries-Wandry
  • Mark DeYoung
  • Chris Gardner

They not only worked full days, they even took on a covert late night trip to stage the right materials before the last morning building to make sure we could get the last two Abod’s ready for the next day’s ribbon cutting and handing over of the keys.  Now that is commitment! These great guys were an answer to my prayers!

Abōd Shelters® friends, do come back soon to hear more stories about how this amazing Tanzania experience of great people coming together to do great things unfolded.


In heartfelt service,

Ginny Shiverdecker
Executive Director


There are many options for private individuals, companies, schools, churches and other organizations to partner with us and make a real difference. Check out how to Partner With Us or simply connect to Ginny Shiverdecker at ginny@abodshelters.comYou may also donate to build an Abōd.

Part 2: Tanzania Abod Shelters Micro Village Build Accomplished with Bella Homes Volunteer Teamwork!
read more