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Founder’s Story

David and Jamalyn Williamson lived in Fondwa, Haiti from 2003-2005.  Newlyweds and recent graduates of Duke Divinity School, they made the leap and moved to Haiti. They worked at the community school and invested their time in building relationships with Fondwa neighbors.

In 2005, the couple moved to Indiana and began serving churches in the United Methodist Church. For the next five years, they had two children, pastored congregations Despite the distance, their bond with Fondwa remained steadfast as they continued to visit whenever possible, often bringing church groups along to share in their experiences. 

Everything changed on January 12, 2010, when a devastating 7.8 magnitude earthquake shook Haiti to its core. Jamalyn found herself in Fondwa at the time, just 15 miles from the epicenter. The aftermath was surreal—a deafening silence broken only by the haunting melody of women’s prayers amidst aftershocks. Witnessing the destruction firsthand ignited a fire within the Williamsons and their friends, leading to the formation of a grassroots effort to rebuild homes lost in the disaster.

As a result of this experience, the Williamsons became part of a grassroots group of friends composed of both Haitians and Americans who began rebuilding houses lost during the earthquake. They concentrated their efforts and rebuilt 17 houses in seven years. The group decided they wanted to make a longer-term impact with a strategic approach and began by asking the community of Fondwa what it was they really wanted? The reply was, we need to expand our scope by building more houses, not just replacing those lost because a place to live is the first step in creating family stability and transforming lives. The team created a Selection Committee made up of Fondwa leaders to help establish criteria, make decisions and prioritize home building projects.

In 2018, we formed a non-profit organization called Zanmi (zah-me) Fondwa to carry out our work. The name means “Friends of Fondwa” and was inspired by the act of the group of friends coming together and taking action to help the community.

Zanmi Fondwa’s strategy is based on building high quality, long-lasting homes that will create family stability for generations to come.

We build houses with modern kitchens replacing dirt floors and tin walls, we build houses with indoor plumbing instead of out-houses. Our homes are made of concrete designed to withstand natural disasters and we surround our homes with trees that bear fruit to sustain families and create income. Zanmi completed its first house in February 2019.

Zanmi Fondwa is supported 100% by donations from individuals, churches, corporations and special grants.

At Zanmi Fondwa, it all starts with a home, a safe and secure place to live, the foundation upon which Haitians can build a better future for themselves. Zanmi Fondwa exists to improve and transform the future of Haitian families – one home at a time.

In 2024 we became a National organization for Haiti and to honor this change we became Project Rouj. The name pays homage to the red “rouj” roof which is a symbol for the homes we have built and will build in Haiti.