Sherm Balch saw first-hand the devastation and destruction of Haiti shortly after a 7.0 earthquake struck in 2010, killing an estimated 250,000 people. Sherm and a group of people from his church, Cornerstone Fellowship in Livermore, CA, traveled to Haiti to determine where they could be of help. Sherm resolved to use his gifts and resources and two years later, in 2012, Extollo International was formed.
Sherm felt a call to help in the rebuilding of Haiti and to do the reconstruction in a way that was going to rebuild a stronger Haiti. Key to this vision was Haitian men and women becoming involved and partnering with Extollo in the rebuilding of their communities.
I recently sat down with Keith Cobell, President of Extollo International. Keith started by saying, “Sherm’s expertise is in the area of construction, particularly in masonry and concrete. So when we saw the extensive damage, Sherm quickly realized the primary reason for all the devastation and so much death was because the infrastructure in Haiti was so weak, particularly the buildings. Very few of the structures were built to any kind of international building standards and the earthquake unfortunately caused structures to collapse crushing many, many people.”
Keith told me, “Sherm felt a call to help in the rebuilding of Haiti and to do the reconstruction in a way that was going to rebuild a stronger Haiti.” Key to this vision was Haitian men and women becoming involved and partnering with Extollo in the rebuilding of their communities.
We will probably always want to bring in outside talent from time to time to maintain a high level of instruction and expose our students to the latest construction best-practices
A ripple effect was created when the Haitian men and women rebuilding their communities began helping their friends and neighbors to rebuild their homes. That ripple effect became, “The genesis of Extollo starting a construction company and a trade school that have a synergistic relationship,” said Keith.
A few years later Extollo acquired property in Haiti to begin building the infrastructure for the trade school and construction company. Extollo is still in the early stages of developing the trade school, which now offers entry-level training courses in four trades most relevant for Haiti: (1) Concrete, (2) Masonry, (3) Welding and (4) Electrical.
Each day the trade school starts with a devotion, walking through Scripture with the students teaching them what it means to be a person of integrity and honesty, and teaching them, as Keith says, “We work for our Heavenly Father first and foremost.”
While there is still a need, experienced construction professionals travel from the States to Haiti to help in mentoring, training and quality control for the classes offered through the trade school.
This year, for the first time, a Welding course was offered and was led and taught by the Haitian staff, “…which is really what we want for the future of Extollo,” stated Keith. “We will probably always want to bring in outside talent from time to time to maintain a high level of instruction and expose our students to the latest construction best-practices.”
Currently the courses offered through the Extollo trade school run for two weeks. One week is classroom instruction and the second week is a hands-on practicum where the students are actually working on a project.
Our goal is that our graduates are so competitive in the job market because of their certification from Extollo that they are able to take jobs from expats [someone living in a foreign country] that are brought in to work on the more sophisticated construction projects being built in