Last July, the Miami Herald wrote about Brett Hagler and his startup called New Story, a nonprofit crowdfunding site in which 100 percent of donations went to building small, hurricane-resistant concrete houses in Haiti.
Hagler, who grew up in Coral Springs, set an ambitious goal for New Story then: Fund 100 homes in 100 days — and then build the homes, moving in families one by one. New Story was focused on a large tent slum in Leveque, Haiti, 40 minutes from Port-au-Prince, which had been in place since the devastating Jan. 12, 2010 earthquake. New Story believed giving Haitians new homes would help change their life trajectory. “The best way people can help is to fund a home,” Hagler said then.
New Story’s platform worked like this: A family needing a home was featured on newstorycharity.org. When the family was funded, reaching $6,000 in donations for a 388-square foot, three-room concrete home, Haitian construction workers got to work. Donors could see the progress of their project every step of the way, and were sent a video of the family on move-in day. New Story partnered with Mission of Hope, an organization that has been building homes in Haiti for more than 16 years.
Hagler started New Story with Mike Arrieta. Both went to high school at Coral Springs Christian Academy, graduated in 2008, then went off to different colleges and are now living in San Francisco. New Story also participated in Y-Combinator accelerator last summer.
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With the help of 2,448 donors, New Story crushed the goal and raised the money in 90 days. South Floridians were generous: One donor funded an entire house, Hagler said. Now the squalid tent city is gone and New Story has built 151 colorful, permanent homes in Leveque, where more than 1,200 Haitians live in a sustainable community, he said. Local laborers built blocks of 10 to 20 houses at a time, and each block took about six to eight weeks to build, according to a report in FastCompany. While the squalid tent city offered no electricity, water, privacy or security, the new homes are powered by solar energy and connected to a community-owned water utility. Hagler credits the partnership with Mission of Hope for much of New Story’s success.
Hagler said that New Story plans to start new stories as it expands to Bolivia and El Salvador with a slightly different model because residents there can afford to make micro-payments. But working in Haiti has left a lasting impression on Hagler, and he said a new project will be starting in that country in about a month: “New Story will always be in Haiti.”
Follow Nancy Dahlberg on Twitter @ndahlberg.