Habitat volunteers make a huge impact
One family at a time, Habitat for Humanity is making an impact on the world around us.

Images of former President Jimmy Carter serving as a volunteer to help build homes helped give the Americus, Georgia, based non-profit the attention it needed to take on the cause of improving housing for the poor, an enormous ambition, and one that makes an enormous difference in the lives of those being helped.

Last week the Sylacauga affiliate of the group announced a family had moved into the eleventh home they have built there, with an open house planned for next Tuesday at 5:30 for the public to view the home at 312 West Coosa Street.

Affiliate president Celeste Landers said the previous two homes were such a struggle to complete, in terms of volunteers and donations, it took a real step of faith to start again.

But they did, and had more volunteers than ever before. Previous homes had averaged 15 volunteers helping with the work. This time there were 80.

In this newspaper’s coverage area, Sylacauga, Pell City and Talladega all have Habitat for Humanity affiliate organizations, and all have celebrated successes of giving a “hand up, not a hand out” to qualifying families looking for a way to move into a better home.

They are three of the 32 affiliates in the state of Alabama. The organization’s vision is worldwide, and earlier this month Habitat for Humanity International announced a new five-year strategic plan to help the organization further its mission to bring people together to build homes, communities and hope. The plan will run through June 2018 and is aimed at expanding the organization’s impact on all aspects of affordable housing in the more than 70 countries where Habitat is at work around the world.

“We believe that housing is a critical foundation for breaking the cycle of poverty,” said Jonathan Reckford, CEO, Habitat for Humanity International. “We believe for a family to thrive they must first have access to simple, decent shelter. There are 1.6 billion people in the world without adequate shelter, and the need continues to grow. Our new plan outlines the bold actions necessary for us to address this urgent housing problem. I am excited about our new plan and the difference it can make in the lives of people around the world.”

They hope to help a million people annually, worldwide, to improve their shelter conditions, doubling current efforts.

Decent, stable housing provides more than a roof over someone’s head. It provides stability for families and children, a sense of dignity and pride, not to mention physical safety and security.

Those factors also help put children and youth in a better position to achieve success in their future, increasing their likelihood of educational success and improving their job prospects.

The homes are not free — to qualify for a Habitat home, families must apply, meet guidelines, help complete the work, and purchase the home at no interest. Volunteers do the work, which makes the homes affordable, helping families fulfill the dream of owning their homes. Families also agree to volunteer to help build the next home for the next family.

The organization estimates more than 800 million people worldwide live in urban slums, a number expected to top a billion by 2020. Even with Habitat’s goal of helping a million people per year, there’s no way they can keep pace with the number of people who can use the help. But with commitment from applying families, and the help of volunteers and donors willing help a neighbor, they are making a difference — one family at a time.
© 2013